Cuba’s National Assembly named RaÃºl Castro, 76, to succeed his older brother Fidel as president of Cuba. RaÃºl Castro—a hardliner long considered the communist regime’s enforcer—said he would continue to consult with his ailing 81-year-old brother, who ran the Caribbean nation for nearly 50 years. “'Fidel is irreplaceable,' RaÃºl Castro said in his inaugural speech. (The Miami Herald, free registration required).
What the commentators said
Cubans can forget about “rapid change” now, said Reuters’ Anthony Boadle. The man behind the island’s economic reforms in the 1990s, Carlos Lage, got “passed over” for a “hardline communist ideologue” as Cuba’s new deputy leader. And the rest of the members of RaÃºl’s leadership team “are mostly elderly men expected to move slowly as they try to boost the island's struggling economy while remaining loyal” to Fidel’s ideals.
“No one expects much change” on the political front, said Sarah Miller Llana in The Christian Science Monitor. But RaÃºl Castro is a “pragmatist,” and he publicly acknowledged that Cuba is in dire financial straits. So Cubans have good reason to believe that the new government will “inch toward economic reforms that many consider necessary to the viability of the island nation.”
“Raul has his own record for ruthlessness,” said Clarence Page in the Chicago Tribune, but “he also has begun to sow the seeds of a post-Fidel Cuba.” Since taking over provisionally in 2006, he has nudged Cuba “toward a more competitive economic system, like China, whose "communism" increasingly looks more like state-controlled capitalism.” He also has “encouraged public meetings to air complaints and hinted at something else that Fidel dreads: the use of 'incentives' to increase productivity.” He just might be someone the next presidential administration can do business with.