April 16, 2018 / 1:40 PM / in 4 days

Cuba brings forward assembly session to pick new president

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba said on Monday it was bringing forward the start of the national assembly session where a new president to succeed Raul Castro will be selected and it will last two days.

The assembly, whose members were selected in a March vote, had originally been set to meet on Thursday but will now start its “constitutive session” at 0900 ET (1300 GMT) on Wednesday.

The change was to “facilitate the development of the steps that a session of such importance requires,” the national assembly said on its website.

The session will conclude on Thursday, a day of symbolic importance as it marks the anniversary of Cuba’s 1961 defeat of a CIA-backed Cuban exile invasion at the Bay of Pigs.

Castro, 86, has said he will step down as president at the next assembly session after completing two successive five-year mandates. The man expected to succeed him is First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57.

Diaz-Canel would be the first president since Cuba’s leftist 1959 revolution to be born after it. Castro, who formally took over the presidency 10 years ago from his brother, Fidel Castro, will remain head of the Communist Party, Cuba’s sole political party.

The assembly is calling on Cubans to use the hashtag #SomosContinuidad (“We are continuity”) on social media during the two days it is meeting, reflecting the party’s desire to ensure stability above all.

The session will take place in the Palace of Conventions, the national assembly said, rather than its new seat, the Capitol, that is in the final phase of restoration work.

Reporting by Nelson Acosta and Sarah Marsh; Editing by Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman

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