Raul Castro’s retirement plan delayed by two months

Hurricane Irma has delayed Cuban President Raul Castro’s retirement plan and the historic transfer of power to a non-Castro leader after six decades of family rule.

This follows the parliament’s decision to extend its current legislative period from February 24 to April 19, 2018, citing the extraordinary situation caused by Hurricane Irma which led to loss of lives and damage to property this September.

The storm forced the country to postpone elections scheduled for October to November.

In Cuba, which follows one-party system, 600 councillors are first elected. They then select the 31-member Council of State whose leader becomes the next president.

“When the National Assembly reassembles, my second and last term as the head of the Cuban state and government will end and Cuba will have a new president,” the 86-year-old told parliament on Thursday.

When Castro was re-elected in 2013, he had said it would be his last. He took up the job provisionally when his brother Fidel Castro fell ill in 2006 and was elected twice as president in 2008 and 2013. Fidel died in November 2016 at the age of 90.

Although no successor has yet been announced, First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel is seen as the front-runner. Castro favours him and, if elected, he would be the first non-Castro politician to lead the country since the revolution of 1959.

During his tenure, Castro initiated some reforms like expanding internet and cell phone access, allowing most Cubans freedom to travel, modest openings in the domestic economy and the renewal of diplomatic ties with the US under former president Barack Obama. However, ties between the two countries deteriorated after President Donald Trump re-imposed restrictions on US citizens travelling to Cuba.