Prominent Cuban-Americans and human rights experts denounced the rigged election of Miguel Diaz-Canel, Raul Castro's handpicked successor, as the new president of Cuba, and are calling on President Donald Trump not to recognize the newly installed leader unless he agrees to basic democratic reforms.
Mr Díaz-Canel had been serving as first vice-president for the past five years. Fidel Castro was president of Cuba from 1976 to 2008 and died in 2016. "The reality is that Raul Castro is still controlling the Communist Party".
In other remarks, Castro sharply criticized United States foreign, trade and immigration policy under President Donald Trump.
Russian Federation and China are among the countries sending congratulations to Cuba as a new president takes office on the island while the US expressed "disappointment" over the event.
There has been a renewed chill under Trump, who put a stop to doing business with some Cuban state-run companies and tightened rules for USA visitors.
"When his 10 years of service as president of the Council of State and Council of Ministers are over, he'll have three years as the first secretary in order to facilitate the transition".
Paul Hare, a former British ambassador to Cuba and now a senior lecturer at Boston University's Pardee School of Global Studies, said that Díaz-Canel would have to give the revolution "a new spin".
"From that point on, I will be just another soldier defending this revolution", Castro said.
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"The United States has no expectation that the Cuban people will see any greater freedoms under Castro's handpicked successor", the spokesperson said. The 86-year-old younger brother of the late Fidel Castro is set to hold on to power by remaining the head of the Communist Party, at least until his scheduled retirement in 2021.
He is the island's first leader born after the revolution, and will be 58 on Friday.The chamber erupted into applause as the result was read out, with numerous delegates smiling, and shaking hands warmly with Castro and Diaz-Canel. Sadly for the Cuban people, the country is likely to remain a time-traveler's vision: a relic of Cold War communism, complete with 1959 Chevys, a cripplingly centralized economy, and a repressive political system.
In a video of a Communist Party meeting that inexplicably leaked to the public a year ago, Mr Diaz-Canel expressed a series of orthodox positions that included sombrely pledging to shut some independent media and labelling some European embassies as outposts of foreign subversion.
He ended his speech like Fidel Castro used to, punching the air and shouting the revolutionary slogans "motherland or death, socialism or death, we will win".
"We're building a relationship between the government and the people here", he said then after casting a ballot for members of the National Assembly.
There are mixed feeling from many Cubans - some who have struggled with economic hardship and are frustrated with the government's emphasis on continuity.
"I don't want to see a capitalist system, hopefully that doesn't come here, but we have to fix the economy", said Roberto Sanchez, a 41-year-old construction worker.
In his speech, Castro reiterated his support for the reforms and for self-employment. Unifying the two would raise the price of imports.