Cuba to elect new leader as Raúl Castro leaves presidency

The Latest: 6 nominated for Cuban vice presidency posts

The Cuban government has nominated First Vice President Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez as the sole candidate for president, guaranteeing that the 57-year-old engineer will succeed Gen. Raul Castro, 86.

State-run media and government-controlled Twitter accounts are promoting what is expected to be a historic handover of the presidency to the first non-Castro to lead the country in almost 60 years. Until March, Diaz-Canel had said nothing to the Cuban people about the type of president he would be.

Number of U.S. TV networks in 1959. Relations with the United States are strained anew under President Donald Trump and Cuba has few allies in the region.

Facing biological reality but still active and apparently healthy, Raul Castro is stepping down as president in an effort to guarantee that new leaders can maintain the government's grip on power in the face of economic stagnation, an aging population and increasing disenchantment among younger generations. He was summoned to Havana in 2009 to be higher education minister and in 2013 Castro made him his right-hand man, praising him for his "solid ideological strength".

Later, the members of the assembly will vote for president of the country, with the results expected to be announced Thursday.

A leaked video previous year 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.




While stressing he was acting to preserve and not dismantle socialism, Castro also introduced market reforms to one of the world's last Soviet-style centrally planned economies, permitting more small businesses and encouraging some foreign investment. On Wednesday, the legislators will elect the legislature's leadership and then, the president, first deputy president and another 29 members of the State Council. However, many ordinary Cubans say they feel distant from politics, preferring to focus on making ends meet within the limited economic opportunities that opened under Castro's changes.

"But I don't think a change of chief is going to change my life".

As in Cuba's legislative elections, all of the leaders being voted in on Wednesday are selected by a government-appointed commission. Ballots offer only the option of approval or disapproval and candidates generally receive more than 95 percent of the votes in their favor.

Castro entered the National Assembly just after 9 a.m. accompanied by a broadly smiling Diaz-Canel.

Cuba's parliament, however, won't officially reveal the results of the vote until it readjourns Thursday. He is extremely unlikely to challenge one-party rule.

Castro became president in 2008 when his brother, Fidel Castro, formally handed over power as his health deteriorated.

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