February 24, 2013
Fidel Castro's Rare Appearance Shocks Cuba's Parliament

Cuba's retired leader Fidel Castro made a rare public appearance on Sunday when he joined the opening session of the National Assembly.

Castro's appearance at the meeting also fueled speculation that the gathering could help give clues on what the nation plans for a future leadership succession.

Raul Castro, Cuba's current leader, has considered retirement. Fidel, Raul's brother, took his seat beside the president for the second time since he became sick, reports Reuters.

Raul joked with reporters on Friday about his potential retirement, saying:

"I'm going to turn 82; I have a right to retire already. You don't believe me? Why are you so incredulous?"
Cuban's National Assembly meets for a few weeks per year. The body delegates its powers between sessions to the Council of State, which also functions as the executive branch. The Council of State appoints the Council of Ministers.

Cuba will likely be watched closely over the next few weeks to see if any new faces are seen among the Council of State members, notes CBS News. Fidel Castro's rare appearance is his first since 2010 and his second since 2006. He was not expected to attend the session on Sunday.

Castro is a deputy to the parliament, though he has not publicly participated due to his health. He was reelected to his position last February 3, though many Cubans and foreign observers considered the election symbolic.

It is expected that the body will reelect Raul Castro to another five-year term as president. Jose Ramon Machado Ventura will also likely be reaffirmed as first vice president. The parliament was elected on February 3 and more than 67 percent of its members are first-timers.

The percentage of women in the National Assembly increased, along with the percentage of non-white members. The average age also dropped from 49 to 48 years.

Due to Raul Castro's age, it is likely that this government will be the last to be headed by the Castro brothers. The generation has ruled Cuba since the 1959 revolution. Raul will likely take his second term on Sunday, leaving him free to retire, if he wants, in 2018 at the age of 86.

[Image by Antônio Milena/ABr (Agência Brasil [1]) [CC-BY-3.0-br], via Wikimedia Commons]