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The Latest: Rubio calls pick of new Cuba leader a ‘charade’

April 18, 2018
FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2018 file photo, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks with reporters as he leaves the office of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is moderating bipartisan negotiations on immigration, at the Capitol in Washington. When presidents gather on April 13, in Peru at the Summit of the Americas, they may be tempted to walk past Vice President Mike Pence and make a beeline for the person who has President Donald Trump’s ear on Latin America: Sen. Marco Rubio. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2018 file photo, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks with reporters as he leaves the office of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is moderating bipartisan negotiations on immigration, at the Capitol in Washington. When presidents gather on April 13, in Peru at the Summit of the Americas, they may be tempted to walk past Vice President Mike Pence and make a beeline for the person who has President Donald Trump’s ear on Latin America: Sen. Marco Rubio. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

HAVANA (AP) — The latest on the meeting of Cuba’s legislature and the scheduled end of Raul Castro’s presidency (all times local):

5:35 p.m.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio says the selection of Raul Castro’s successor as president of Cuba is a “charade” that will not bring change to the island.

The Florida Republican said in a Wednesday statement that Cuba continues to be oppressed by a single-party system.

The Cuban government selected on Wednesday 57-year-old First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel as the sole candidate to succeed Castro. It would mark the first time in nearly six decades that someone from outside the Castro family will hold the island’s highest government office.

Rubio says that with Diaz-Canel, “the regime will remain an enemy of democracy, human rights and the impartial rule of law.”

Castro will remain head of the Communist Party, the most powerful official organ in Cuba.

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12:30 p.m.

Cuba has announced the slate of candidates for six vice presidents on its powerful Council of State.

Three of the nominees would be returning to the council. They are Salvador Valdes Mesa, Ramiro Valdes Menendez and Gladys Maria Bejerano Portela.

The new vice presidents would be Ines Maria Chapman, Beatriz Jhonson Urrutia and Roberto Tomas Morales Ojeda, who is now the health minister.

Members of the National Assembly are expected to vote on this slate of candidates in a secret ballot later Wednesday and announce the results Thursday.

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12:10 p.m.

The Cuban government has nominated First Vice President Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez as the sole candidate for president, guaranteeing that the 57-year-old engineer will succeed Gen. Raul Castro, 86.

Wednesday’s announcement confirms the long-held expectation that Diaz-Canel would take over from Castro in a transition meant to ensure that the country’s single-party system outlasts the aging revolutionaries who created it.

The nomination must be now approved by the 604 delegates attending the National Assembly, which always approves nominations with total or near-total unanimity.

Nominated as new first vice president is Salvador Valdes Mesa, a 72-year-old Afro-Cuban former union official who has held a long series of high posts in the Cuban government.

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10:30 a.m.

A two-day session of the Cuban legislature has started with some bureaucratic business as lawmakers prepare to elect the country’s new president.

It started with an oath of office read by Leydimara de la Caridad Cardenas Isasi, who at 19 is the youngest member of the more than 600 members of the National Assembly of People’s Power. A young Afro-Cuban, Cardenas represents the central town of Jovellanos. She entered politics when she was 16.

Later, the members of the assembly will vote for president of the country, with the results expected to be announced Thursday.

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9:45 a.m.

Cuba’s government is embracing social media as it convenes the National Assembly to elect a successor to President Raul Castro.

State-run media and government-controlled Twitter accounts are promoting what is expected to be a historic handover of the presidency to the first non-Castro to lead the country in nearly 60 years.

The accounts are using the hashtag “Somos Continuidad” or “We are continuity.” It’s an apparent effort to convey the message that the Cubans shouldn’t expect radical change when a new president is announced on Thursday.

Internet access has increased dramatically over the past two years but the country still has one of the lowest percentages of home internet usage in the world. Few Cubans use Twitter and the vast majority of the country relies on TV for news.

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9:20 a.m.

Cuba’s legislature has opened a two-day session that is to elect a successor to President Raul Castro.

The new president will be the first person outside the Castro family to lead the island since in nearly six decades.

Legislators erupted in applause Wednesday morning as Castro entered the hall in a dark suit, accompanied by Miguel Diaz-Canel, his expected successor.

Diaz-Canel smiled and joined the applause of the president. Castro is leaving after serving two five-year terms. He succeeded his brother Fidel, who headed Cuba from 1959 to 2006.

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