Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, Selected As Next Cuban President

Raul Castro To Step Down As Cuba's President

Cuba's Raul Castro moved closer to retiring as president on Wednesday as the country's parliament proposed Miguel Diaz-Canel to replace him, in a shift that will usher in the island's first non-Castro leader since the 1959 revolution, APA reports quoting Reuters.

The 86-year-old Castro will remain head of the Communist Party, designated by the constitution as "the superior guiding force of society and the state".

The National Assembly was due to vote later in the day on the proposal to replace him with Diaz-Canel, a 57-year-old Communist Party stalwart who is now first vice president.

Facing biological reality, Raul Castro is working to ensure a smooth transition from him and his small group of former guerrillas to a new generation that can maintain the government's grip on power in the face of economic stagnation, an aging population and waning revolutionary fervor among Cuban youth attuned more to global consumer culture than the anti-capitalist, nationalist messaging of the state-run media.

Legislators erupted in applause Wednesday morning as Castro entered the hall in a dark suit, accompanied by Miguel Diaz-Canel, his expected successor.

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Cuba's government is embracing social media as it convenes the National Assembly to elect a successor to President Raul Castro. The new president and his colleagues were due to be sworn in on Thursday.

Diaz-Canel should "increase the speed of change in Cuba while preserving the good things", said blogger Harold Cardenas, 32, adding that resistance from within the party to Castro's economic reforms had held the country back.

Political campaigning is outlawed in Cuba, so little is known about Diaz-Canel's plans to navigate these challenges.

Still, Diaz-Canel is not known to support changing Cuba's government from the one-party system in place since the revolution, a demand from ant-Castro politicians in Washington. Though the reforms caused a boom in the Cuban economy, they have since slowed.

Fuel was scarce so he cycled to work wearing shorts instead of commuting by Soviet-made Lada cars like other party leaders.

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He worked long hours, carrying out surprise inspections of state companies to counter corruption, leading to a nickname, Diaz y Noche, a wordplay on his name and a television crime drama Day and Night.

A leaked video a year ago from a closed-door party meeting that showed Diaz-Canel espousing hard line views against independent media, dissidents and Western embassies disappointed many Cubans, who hoped he would be a reformist. He became higher education minister in 2009 before moving into the vice presidency.

Yet some analysts say this was more proof of Diaz-Canel's political dexterity than of his policy views as he needed to reassure party hardliners spooked by Fidel Castro's death and by Trump's election.

That dexterity will be crucial if Diaz-Canel wants to push through changes along the sort of careful trajectory Castro has set enough to make Cuban socialism sustainable but not so much they destroy the system.

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