Raul Castro takes the reins in Cuba

It’s official:

HAVANA, Cuba — Cuba’s parliament named Raul Castro president on Sunday, ending nearly 50 years of rule by his brother Fidel but leaving the island’s communist system unshaken. In a surprise move, an old guard revolutionary leader was named No. 2, suggesting that major changes are not likely anytime soon.

The retirement of the ailing 81-year-old president caps a career in which he frustrated efforts by 10 U.S. presidents to oust him.

Raul Castro stressed that his brother remains “commander in chief” even if he is not president by proposing to consult with Fidel on all major decisions of state — a motion approved by acclamation.

Jose Ramon Machado, who fought alongside the Castro brothers in the Sierra Maestra during the late 1950s, was named to the No. 2 slot that Raul Castro had previously held. He is 76 years old, like Raul Castro.

Cabinet secretary Carlos Lage, who many had expected would move up into the first vice president slot, maintained his spot as one of five other vice presidents on the governing Council of State.

The other four vice presidents included Juan Almeida Bosque, 80, a historic revolutionary leader; Interior Minister Abelardo Colome Ibarra, 68; Esteban Lazo Hernandez, 63, a longtime Communist Party leader, and Gen. Julio Casas Regueiro, 71, who was Raul Castro’s No. 2 at the Defense Ministry.

So much for Raul the “reformer,” says the Babalu Blog.

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