Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, selected as next president of Cuba

Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, selected as next president of Cuba

The replacement for President Raul Castro is widely expected to be First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, an engineer who embraces technology and appears socially liberal but is considered a safe pair of hands to follow the elderly leaders who fought the 1959 revolution, as they retire. That image changed slightly this year as state media placed an increasing spotlight on Diaz-Canel's public appearances, including remarks to the press last month that included his promise to make Cuba's government more responsive to its people. Cuban allies in Latin America have been voted out of government positions across the region in recent years.

Miguel Diaz-Canel has been nominated at Wednesday's session of the Cuban National Assembly for the post of the country's State Council leader.

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.

As in Cuba's legislative elections, all of the leaders selected Wednesday were selected by a government-appointed commission. The State Council's makeup and the name of the new head of state will be announced on Thursday.

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

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

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"If the updating fails, Raul will be remembered as just one more reform communist who couldn't force the system to change despite his best efforts", Leogrande told Reuters.

He grew up in a modest one-storey house with a crumbling stucco facade in what locals say is one of the roughest neighborhoods of the provincial capital, Santa Clara.

"His closeness to the citizens was his trademark", said Ramon Silverio, 69, owner of Santa Clara's El Mejunje ("the mixture") cultural centre that holds lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) nights.

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. 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".

Diaz-Canel is "not there to break the china or disrupt the political system", Thale told ABC.

Given Diaz-Canel that lacks the clout of Fidel and Raul Castro as historic leaders of the revolution, his ability to command authority will depend on the economy improving, analysts say. He is seen as less reform-minded than the new president.

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