Cuba picks Diaz-Canel to succeed Castro

Miguel Díaz-Canel (left) has served as vice-president to Raúl Castro (right)

Cuba’s parliament has picked Miguel Díaz-Canel as the sole candidate to succeed Raúl Castro, 86, bringing the family’s decades-long rule to an end.

Raúl Castro took over as president from his ailing brother Fidel in 2006.

The National Assembly, the country’s legislative body, will vote on the nomination but Mr Díaz-Canel is almost certain to be confirmed.

Raúl Castro is expected to remain a powerful influence in the communist state even after he steps down.

He is expected to formally pass the presidency to Mr Díaz-Canel after the announcement of the National Assembly’s vote on Thursday.

The next Cuban leader will inherit a country in economic stagnation and with a young population impatient for change, BBC Cuba correspondent Will Grant reports.

Plus there is the complex task of leading without the same revolutionary past as the predecessors.

Who is Díaz-Canel?

He may have had a relatively low profile when he was first appointed vice-president of Cuba’s Council of State in 2013 but he has since become Raúl Castro’s right-hand man.

For the past five years, he has been groomed for the presidency and the handover of power. But even before being named first vice-president, the 57-year-old had already had a long political career.

He was born in April 1960, little over a year after Fidel Castro was first sworn in as prime minister.

He studied electrical engineering and began his political career in his early 20s as a member of the Young Communist League in Santa Clara.

While teaching engineering at the local university, he worked his way up the ranks of the Young Communist League, becoming its second secretary at the age of 33.

Raúl Castro has praised his “ideological firmness”.

Will the new president bring real change?

Whoever leads the country next is unlikely to make any major changes in the short term, especially as long as Mr Castro remains a political force to be reckoned with.

Any changes are likely to be gradual and slow-paced. Having said that, Raúl Castro did bring in reforms after he took over as president, most strikingly the thaw in relations with the US which had seemed unthinkable under his brother Fidel.

The new leader will have to consider how to overcome the problems caused by the economic collapse of Cuba’s ally, Venezuela, and what kind of relationship the Caribbean island wants with the US under Donald Trump.

But what most Cubans will judge the new leader on is whether their day-to-day lives improve.

How representative is Cuba’s National Assembly?

Often regarded as a rubber-stamp body, it is officially meeting to swear in its 605 members, who were elected last month.

It also votes on the composition of the all-powerful Council of State, whose president serves as both head of state and government.

Cuba has long maintained it has one of the most inclusive and fairest election systems in the world but critics say that assertion is laughable as the process is fully overseen by the ruling Communist Party.

All 605 candidates stood unopposed in March.

Source: BBC

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