Raul Castro hints he may leave presidency

Cuban President Raul Castro , set to be named to a new five-year term Sunday, urged reporters to listen to his speech that day. FRANKLIN REYES / AP
Cuban President Raul Castro , set to be named to a new five-year term Sunday, urged reporters to listen to his speech that day. FRANKLIN REYES / AP
Posted: February 24, 2013

HAVANA - Cuban President Raul Castro has unexpectedly raised the possibility of leaving his post, saying Friday that he is old and has a right to retire. But he did not say when he might do so or if such a move was imminent.

The Cuban leader is scheduled to be named by parliament to a new five-year term on Sunday, and he urged reporters to listen to his speech that day.

"I am going to resign," Castro said at a joint appearance with visiting Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

"I am going to be 82 years old," Castro added, the hint of a smile on his face. "I have the right to retire, don't you think?"

Castro's tone was light and his comments came in informal remarks at a mausoleum dedicated to soldiers from the former Soviet Union who have died around the world.

The Cuban leader has spoken before of his desire to implement a two-term limit for all Cuban government positions, including the presidency. He has also alluded to the limited time he has left to overhaul the island's weak Marxist economy. That has led many to speculate that this upcoming term would be his last, though term limits have never been codified into Cuban law.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland had no comment on Castro's remarks.

Most Havana residents had not heard about the comments, which were not shown on Cuban TV, although other footage from his appearance was shown.

Until now, all eyes had been on who would emerge as Castro's first and second vice presidents during Sunday's proceedings. The positions are currently occupied by two loyal octogenarians who fought in the 1959 revolution.

Putting someone younger in one of those roles would be the first sign that Castro was settling on a potential next-generation successor, something he and his brother Fidel have never done.

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