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Raul Castro was elected by the National Assembly as Cuban president
Raul Castro was elected by the National Assembly as Cuban president on Sunday, vowing to continue the political course laid out by his older brother almost 50 years ago.

Fidel Castro, 81, announced last Tuesday that he would step down as Cuba's president after almost 50 years in power due to health problems. The leader of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, and the man who has outlasted nine hostile U.S. presidents, still remains the head of the Communist Party.

Shortly after his election, Raul Castro, 76, said: "Fidel is irreplaceable and the people will continue his work when he is no longer physically with us."

The new president said he was willing to introduce moderate economic reforms in the country, but insisted that he would not deviate from the socialist path. The reforms may include making the government more efficient, revaluing the peso currency and lifting some state restrictions on private business.

Commenting on Raul Castro's election, a senior Russian lawmaker said on Monday that under a new leadership Cuba would pursue slow moderate reforms in order to become more open and transparent on domestic and international fronts, but without "destroying the established socialist regime" in the country.

Andrei Klimov, deputy head of the Foreign Affairs committee at the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, said the election of Fidel's brother as president and an elderly Communist Party ideologue Jose Ramon Machado Ventura as first vice president indicated that old revolutionary hardliners refused to ease the grasp on the reigns of power.

Klimov said it was hard to predict which socialist path the country would choose under the new leadership.

It may be the "Chinese way" or the path chosen by some ex-Soviet republics, he said.


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