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Miguel Diaz-Canel officially nominated to take helm of Cuba's State Council

Miguel Diaz-Canel officially nominated to take helm of Cuba's State Council

Ceremonies continued through lunchtime and broke until Thursday morning, when the new national leadership is expected to be officially announced on the anniversary of the defeat of US -backed invaders at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

Castro, 86, was due to step down on Thursday after 10 years in office.

Diaz-Canel has since a year ago been widely expected to take over from Castro, who made it clear his deputy was his personal choice.

Wednesday's announcement confirms the long-held expectation that Diaz-Canel would take over from Castro in a transition meant to ensure that the country's single-party system outlasts the aging revolutionaries who created it. But in the short term it is unlikely to herald major changes to the one-party system or state-dominated economic model.

It started with an oath of office read by Leydimara de la Caridad Cardenas Isasi, who at 19 is the youngest member of the more than 600 members of the National Assembly of People's Power.

Cuba's government is embracing social media as it convenes the National Assembly to elect a successor to President Raul Castro.

So whoever is elected president of the Council of State is top dog?

He spent decades climbing the party ranks, becoming Mr Castro's right-hand man in 2013.

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 new president is likely to be cautious at first, seeking to consolidate support among conservatives despite desire among young Cubans for faster development.

His departure from the presidency is nonetheless a symbolically charged moment for a country accustomed to almost 60 years of absolute rule first by revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and, for the past decade, his younger brother.

Diaz-Canel appears to be socially liberal and is considered an acceptable successor to the retiring elderly leaders who fought in the revolution.

He faces "myriad challenges on all fronts", said Richard Feinberg, who led Latin America policy in former U.S. President Bill Clinton's White House.

That image has begun to change slightly this year as Mr Diaz-Canel stepped into the moderate limelight offered by Cuba's Soviet-style state media.

The economy is suffering the effects of a crisis in oil benefactor Venezuela.

The new vice presidents would be Ines Maria Chapman, Beatriz Jhonson Urrutia and Roberto Tomas Morales Ojeda, who is now the health minister. Fidel Castro died in 2016 aged 90.

Later, the members of the assembly will vote for president of the country, with the results expected to be announced Thursday. Relations with Washington had been hostile since soon after Fidel Castro took the island on a sharply leftward path after the revolution.

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