Raul Castro heads slate for Cuba leadership

Other News Materials 24 February 2008 23:55 (UTC +04:00)
Raul Castro heads slate for   Cuba leadership

( Reuter )- Raul Castro was nominated to take over as president of Cuba, a member of the National Assembly said on Sunday, ending his brother Fidel Castro's 49-year rule but keeping the country on a communist path.

Raul Castro, 76, is expected to be confirmed president within hours by the National Assembly, deputy Julio Mendez told reporters.

In a surprise move, orthodox Communist Party ideologue Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, 77, who fought alongside the Castro brothers in their 1950s revolution, was nominated for the deputy leader post as first vice president, Mendez said.

Commentators had expected the deputy leader post to go to 56-year-old Carlos Lage, who drew up limited economic reforms in the 1990s. Machado's nomination suggests change is unlikely to be deep or abrupt.

Raul Castro has led the West's last communist state since July 2006 when long-time U.S. foe Fidel Castro temporarily handed over power after undergoing intestinal surgery. The bearded revolutionary officially retired on Tuesday.

Analysts expect that Raul Castro will introduce limited reforms to kickstart the state-run economy in this Caribbean nation, where most people live in tumbledown houses and struggle to find enough to eat.