HAVANA -- Raul Castro announced Sunday that he will step down as Cuba's president in 2018 after a final five-year term, for the first time putting a date on the end of the Castro era. He tapped rising star Miguel Diaz-Canel as his top lieutenant and first in the line of succession.
The 81-year-old Mr. Castro also said he hopes to establish two-term limits and age caps for political offices including the presidency -- an astonishing prospect for a nation led by Mr. Castro or his older brother Fidel since the 1959 revolution.
In a speech to legislators, Mr. Castro hinted at other changes to the constitution. Still, he scotched any idea that the country would abandon socialism, saying he had not taken the presidency to destroy Cuba's system.
Cuba is at a moment of "historic transcendence," Mr. Castro said of his decision to name Mr. Diaz-Canel to the No. 2 job, replacing the 81-year-old Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, who fought with the Castros in the Sierra Maestra.
Italians head to polls
ROME -- Italians began voting on Sunday in a two-day general election closely watched by Italy's European partners as well as investors, who fear a new period of political and market instability lies ahead.
Leading the electoral pack is Pier Luigi Bersani, a former Communist who has shown a pragmatic streak in supporting tough economic reforms spearheaded by incumbent Mario Monti. On Mr. Bersani's heels is Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire media mogul seeking a comeback after being forced from the premiership by Italy's debt crisis.
Mr. Monti, while widely credited with saving Italy from financial ruin, is trailing badly as he pays the price for the suffering caused by austerity measures.
The wild card is comic-turned-politician Beppe Grillo, whose protest movement against the entrenched political class has been drawing tens of thousands to rallies in piazzas across Italy.
Conservative wins in Cyprus
NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Conservative candidate Nicos Anastasiades won Cyprus' presidency Sunday by one of the widest margins in 30 years, promising to do what it takes to quickly secure a financial rescue package from international creditors and prevent the country from sliding into economic oblivion.
Mr. Anastasiades, 66, won the runoff election with 57.48 percent of the vote, well ahead of left-wing rival Stavros Malas, who nabbed 42.51 percent, final results showed.
Greenland seeing red
COPENHAGEN -- Chinese interest in Greenland's mineral wealth is reigniting the Arctic island's campaign to sever ties with Denmark after almost 200 years of colonial rule.
The calls for independence follow Danish opposition to Greenland's plan to import Chinese workers and capital to help with its mineral extraction. And as lawmakers in Denmark, which controls Greenland's foreign policy, debate whether to allow the island full control over its resources, Greenland's second- biggest party, Siumut, has proposed breaking with the Scandinavian nation as islanders prepare for March 12 elections.
Also in the world ...
The murder case involving Olympic star Oscar Pistorius took another turn Sunday with news that his older brother, Carl, is himself facing charges for the death of a woman in a traffic accident. ... A Belgian citizen shot to death in the Pacific resort of Acapulco, 59-year-old Jan Sarens, was a resident businessman working for a transnational firm, local prosecutors in Mexico said Sunday.