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The Latest: Raul Castro gets own theme song

The Latest: Raul Castro gets own theme song
The Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) — The Latest on Raul Castro’s handover of Cuba’s presidency (all times local):

1:55 p.m.

Raul Castro’s retirement from the presidency of Cuba has its own theme song. 

Cuban state media are enthusiastically promoting “The Last Mambi,” a tribute to Castro posted online by renowned trova singer Raul Torres. 

Torres also wrote a tribute to Fidel Castro that was widely played in Cuba after the revolutionary leader’s death in November 2016. 

Addressing Raul Castro, the new song says, “Now you can be happy/confident that you won’t be the last mambi/confident that there will be millions of arms/with their machetes at the ready.” 

The mambis were machete-toting Cuban rebels against Spanish rule in the 19th century who become icons of Cuban nationalism for future governments, including the current communist administration.  

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1:25 p.m.

One of the fiercest congressional critics of Cuba’s government says the island’s new president is a “thug” who is just the “same as the old boss.”

Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says Congress sees Thursday’s transition as “business as usual” and doesn’t expect diplomatic relations to improve under new President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

Raul Castro stepped down as president Thursday, ending 60 years of Castros holding the island’s top government position. But he remains head of the Communist Party, the country’s ultimate authority.

The Cuban-born lawmaker told The Associated Press Thursday that as long as Raul Castro remains, “There are really no changes.”

She said “It’s the whole system that is corrupt. It’s the communist, authoritarian, totalitarian regime.”

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11 a.m.

Raul Castro says he sees new Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel as his eventual successor as head of the island’s powerful Communist Party.

Castro is making his first speech since handing the presidency over to Diaz-Canel, and used the opportunity to give his vision of the future.

He told members of the National Assembly Thursday that he expects Diaz-Canel to serve two five-year terms and can become head of the party once Castro leaves that position in 2021.

Castro praised Diaz-Canel’s leadership as a Communist Party official dating back to the “special period” of the 1990s when Cuba faced a deep economic crisis following the loss of subsidies because of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Raul Castro served as president for two terms since 2008.

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10:10 a.m.

President Mario Diaz-Canel has made his first speech as Cuba’s new head of state with a pledge to continue the socialist revolution led by his predecessors Fidel and Raul Castro.

Diaz-Canel says in the nationally televised speech before the National Assembly that his first thoughts upon taking office are for the “historic generation” that has led the country since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959.

The 57-year-old president says the country’s leadership cannot forget “for a second” its commitment to the people of Cuba.

Raul Castro sat in the front row of the assembly, gently rocking back and forth in his chair and occasionally seeming to nod in approval.

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9 a.m.

Raul Castro has passed Cuba’s presidency to Miguel Diaz-Canel, putting the island’s government in the hands of someone outside the Castro family for the first time in nearly six decades. He remains head of the powerful Communist Party that oversees political and social activities.

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