Diaz-Canel is set to be appointed by the national assembly, succeeding the 86-year-old Raul Castro, making him the first leader since Cuba's 1959 revolution to be born after that date. The white-haired, generally unsmiling Diaz-Canel had been seen at greatest length in a leaked video of a Communist Party meeting where he somberly pledged to shutter some independent media and labeled some European embassies as outposts of foreign subversion. Now, after more than a decade in charge and after some of the biggest changes in Cuba's history, Raul Castro is expected to step down and hand over leadership to the first non-Castro since the country's Communist revolution in the 1950s.
Castro entered the National Assembly just after 9 a.m. accompanied by a broadly smiling Diaz-Canel. His was the only name put forward by a party-backed commission, and was greeted with a long ovation from lawmakers.
Political observers said Diaz-Canel would be given the job of breathing life into the creaking economy, but would seek Castro's approval on major strategic decisions such as the relationship with the United States.
The rubber-stamp assembly was due to vote on 30 members of Cuba's state council along with Diaz-Canel. After years climbing the ranks of the Communist Party, he is considered a safe bet to inherit the ideological mantle of Castro and other elderly leaders who helped Fidel Castro oust USA -backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.
An electronics engineer by training, Diaz-Canel has often appeared more in tune with the times than his elderly khaki-clad predecessors, Raul and his brother Fidel, who ruled the Caribbean island for the past six decades.
In the U.S., Cuban exiles and Cuban-American leaders see this as not a true election at all, Bojorquez reports. It is suffering from a crisis in oil benefactor Venezuela. Relations with the United States are strained anew under President Donald Trump and Cuba has few allies in the region.
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Castro's moves to open the economy have largely been frozen or reversed as soon as they began to generate conspicuous shows of wealth by the new entrepreneurial class in a country officially dedicated to equality among its citizens.
Infrastructure is crumbling, foreign investment is lagging and any hope that Cubans may have pegged on a warmer relationship with the US has faltered as renewed tensions have emerged under President Donald Trump.
Castro became president in 2008 when his brother, Fidel Castro, formally handed over power as his health deteriorated.
The confirmation of a new president comes on the 57th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, when the Central Intelligence Agency tried to overthrow the leader of the 1959 revolution, Fidel Castro, an episode Havana has long proclaimed as American imperialism's first great defeat in Latin America. Relations with Washington had been hostile since soon after Fidel Castro took the island on a sharply leftward path after the revolution.
He also introduced market reforms to one of the world's last Soviet-style centrally planned economies.
The legislators then cast secret ballots and were expected to nearly unanimously support the slate. The CCN proposed Salvador Valdes Mesa for the post of first vice-president. He is the first Afro-Cuban to hold such high office in the government. "They basically don't have a real and meaningful choice because it's not a democratic process". "I'd like to have more opportunity, to buy a vehicle, and have a few possessions". Some have wondered if he may even backtrack on some reforms.