Raul Castro To Step Down in April 2018

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Cuban leader Raul Castro's plan to step down as president has been postponed until at least April because of a six-week delay in holding national elections.

Castro had announced on several occasions that he would not accept another term in the presidency at the end of the current legislature in February 2018.

According to a vote Thursday in the island state's National Assembly, Castro, 86, will stay on two months longer than previously anticipated, AFP reported.

The announcement did not specifically mentioned Castro's tenure.

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Cuban officials chose to push back the highly anticipated transition because the government in September delayed legislative elections in the wake of damage caused by Hurricane Irma.

But analysts and Cuban dissidents recently told the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald that an economy in recession, the hardening of US sanctions and the diplomatic crisis stemming from health attacks on USA diplomats in Havana set the stage for Castro's extended term. The head of the council is automatically president of the country.

Castro came to power in 2008, taking over for his brother Fidel who battled health issues in his later years. Cuban First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel has been widely viewed as a possible successor to Castro. Fidel Castro died in November 2016.