Cuba to elect new leader as Raúl Castro leaves presidency

A session of the National Assembly takes place in Havana Cuba

A session of the National Assembly takes place in Havana Cuba

State media went into overdrive Wednesday with a single message: Cuba's system is continuing in the face of change.

Miguel Diaz-Canel is the sole candidate to succeed Cuba's President Raul Castro, officials announced Wednesday on the eve of a vote in the National Assembly.

Raul Castro brought change, significantly thawing relations with the United States for the first time since the revolution took the island on a sharply leftward path.

Rubio says that with Diaz-Canel, "the regime will remain an enemy of democracy, human rights and the impartial rule of law".

But Cuba's economy remains smaller than it was in 1985, when it had the support of Communist ally, the Soviet Union, and some Cubans are pessimistic about their lives improving.

Three of the nominees would be returning to the council.

The first vice president will be Salvador Valdes Mesa, who at 72 is between the two generations.

The new vice presidents would be Ines Maria Chapman, Beatriz Jhonson Urrutia and Roberto Tomas Morales Ojeda, who is now the health minister. All signs point to current vice-president Miguel Díaz-Canel as the successor to Raúl Castro.

Raul Castro has been in power since 2006, when he took over after illness sidelined Fidel.

The nomination must be now approved by the 604 delegates attending the National Assembly, which always approves nominations with total or near-total unanimity.

Although the session was initially planned for Thursday, officials decided earlier this week to extend it across two days. She entered politics when she was 16.

Raul Castro in March was reelected in March as a member of the country's parliament. Cuba's National Assembly is expected to decide on a new president. As a result, Castro will remain the most powerful person in Cuba for the time being. Few Cubans use Twitter and the vast majority of the country relies on TV for news.

The 605-member legislative body opened the plenary session at the Convention Center in the capital Havana.

The new president will be the first person outside the Castro family in nearly six decades.

"I like sticking with the ideas of President Fidel Castro because he did a lot for the people of Cuba, but we need rejuvenation, above all in the economy", said Melissa Mederos, a 21-year-old schoolteacher.

The announcement came after the National Assembly began a historic two-day meeting to elect a successor to the 86-year-old Castro, and usher in a post-Castro era.

Two years after taking over from his ailing brother in 2006, Castro launched a series of reforms that expanded Cuba's private sector to almost 600,000 people and allowed citizens greater freedom to travel and access to information.

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