Esteban Lazo, to date one of the vice presidents of the Cuban Council of State, was elected president of the National Assembly - the communist island's unicameral legislature - on the weekend, replacing Ricardo Alarcon, who held the post for 20 years, state-run media reported.

Lazo, 69, is one of the strongmen of the Cuban Communist Party, or PCC, and a member of the organization's Politburo and its Secretariat, where he is in charge of ideology.

His election came at the current National Assembly session, which also on Sunday, quite predictably, ratified Raul Castro as president of the country.

The 52-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel was confirmed as Cuba's vice president, replacing 82-year-old Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, one of the historic leaders of the Cuban revolution.

The lawmakers also confirmed Ana Maria Mari Machado as vice president of parliament and Miriam Brito in the post of secretary, posts into which they moved during the last legislative session.

Lazo becomes the sixth president in the history of the National Assembly.

Alarcon had presided over the Assembly since 1993 but will now devote himself to the campaign to obtain the release of five Cuban agents convicted of espionage in the United States and serving lengthy prison terms there, according to remarks he gave recently.

Lazo was born into an extremely poor peasant family in Jovellanos, in Cuba's Matanzas province, on Feb. 26, 1944, and he is one of the few black politicians to rise to Cuba's leadership ranks. EFE