Raul Castro said Thursday that he expected his successor Miguel Diaz-Canel to serve two five-year terms as Cuban president, and eventually take his place as head of the Communist Party when he retires from the position in 2021.
It was the first time Castro laid out a clear vision for the nation's power structure after his retirement or death, a vision in which Diaz-Canel is the Castro family's true successor as Cuban leader.
Fidel Castro’s brother left the presidency Thursday after 12 years in office when the National Assembly approved 57-year-old Diaz-Canel as his successor.
In a half-hour speech, Diaz-Canel told the nation that Castro, 86, would remain the country's ultimate authority as head of the Communist Party.
Speaking after Diaz-Canel, Castro said he expected the younger man to become first secretary of the party after Castro retires from the position in 2021.
"From that point on, I will be just another soldier defending this revolution," Castro said.
Castro indicated that he expected Diaz-Canel to serve two five-year terms as head of the party, saying he envisioned Diaz-Canel guiding his own successor for three years after leaving the presidency in 2028.
‘Continuity to the Cuban Revolution’
In his speech to the nation, the new president pledged to preserve the island's communist system while gradually reforming the economy and making the government more responsive to the people.
"The people have given this assembly the mandate to provide continuity to the Cuban Revolution during a crucial, historic moment that will be defined by all that we achieve in the advance of the modernization of our social and economic model," Diaz-Canel said.
He said Cuba was, as always, prepared to negotiate with the United States but unwilling to cede to any of Washington's demands for internal change.
He emphasized that reforms would follow a 12-year-plan laid out by the National Assembly and Communist Party that would allow moderate growth of private enterprise while maintaining the important sectors of the economy in the hands of the state.
With Castro watching from the audience, Diaz-Canel made clear that he would defer to the man who, along with his brother Fidel, founded and ruled for six decades what has become one of the world's last communist governments.
"I confirm to this assembly that Raul Castro, as first secretary of the Communist Party, will lead the decisions about the future of the country," Diaz-Canel said. "Cuba needs him, providing ideas and proposals for the revolutionary cause, orienting and alerting us about any error or deficiency, teaching us, and always ready to confront imperialism."
(FRANCE 24 with AP)