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Cuba's legislature opens, set to re-elect Raul Castro


Cuba's new National Assembly met Sunday to choose a Council of State, which in turn is expected to elect Raul Castro to another five year term as president of the communist country.

Assembly members cheered revolutionary icon Fidel Castro, 86, who made a rare public appearance to be at the opening event with his brother Raul, state news agency Prensa Latina reported. Foreign press was barred from the opening ceremony.

Raul Castro became interim president when Fidel took ill in 2006, then formally became president in 2008. During his second term in office he is expected to continue his overhaul of Cuba's antiquated Soviet-style system.

The reforms come as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the island's main economic benefactor, is convalescing after cancer surgery.

Havana depends heavily on cheap oil and economic aid from the leftist Venezuelan regime, and it's unclear whether a Chavez successor will be as generous.

Members chosen to the Council of State are likely to include the next generation of Cuban leaders, as the old guard directly linked to the 1959 revolution retires or dies off.

Up and coming leaders and likely Council of State members include Miguel Diaz-Canel, a 52 year-old electrical engineer and former higher education minister; Marino Murillo, 52, an economist in charge of overseeing Castro's economic reforms; and Bruno Rodriguez, 55, who has been foreign minister since 2009.

This will be the last term for the 81 year-old Raul Castro: he earlier limited a president's time in office to two five-year terms.