Russia cancels most of Cuba’s debt as Raul Castro wins

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Raul Castro, little brother of famously longtime leader Fidel, had a good day Sunday 24 February: the Cuban parliament confirmed him as president for a five-year term and Russia canceled a $30 billion debt.

The Moscow Times calls it “the country’s biggest debt cancellation in years, according to an agreement”, saying that the deal was “reached during Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to the Caribbean island late last week.

Castro, age 81, will not repeat his older brother’s decades-long presidency: he said Sunday that he will step down in 2018, when his second term in office ends. He also appointed a much younger man, Miguel Diaz-Canel, 52, as his first vice-president, who would presumably step in to replace Raul Castro if he was unable to serve as president.

Diaz-Canel is an engineer and former education official “with an increasingly high profile”, according to the Los Angeles Times.