Cuban state media say new president to be elected Wednesday

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Mr Diaz-Canel, a 57-year-old Communist Party official and the current first vice president, is due to be confirmed Thursday as the successor to Raul Castro, who himself succeeded his elder brother Fidel.

For the first time in almost 60 years, no one named Castro will be running Cuba.

As Cuba moves to elect a new president, we remember the contributions of Raul Castro to the Cuban revolution.

As they began their momentous two-day meeting Wednesday, the 605 delegates of the National Assembly cast their votes for the new Council of State, which counts 31 members and whose head automatically becomes president.

The political transition in Cuba is bringing no joy to exiles in Florida, who say they expect nothing to change after Raul Castro steps down as president.

While this week's assembly is promoting younger leaders of government, Castro and other elders of the revolution will likely retain a degree of power on the Caribbean island as senior leaders of the Communist Party until a party congress set for 2021.

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Castro entered the National Assembly just after 9 a.m. accompanied by a broadly smiling Diaz-Canel.

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

Diaz-Canel, born after the revolution, embraces technology and appears socially liberal.

As in Cuba's legislative elections, all of the leaders being voted in on Wednesday were selected by a government-appointed commission. Fidel died in 2016, and now Raul is stepping down from the presidency. Castro had taken over from his brother Fidel Castro in 2006.

The appointment of Diaz-Canel was met with skepticism by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., who is Cuban-American.

But how much Diaz-Canel will really be running the show remains to be seen.

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During his time in power, Raul Castro allowed for a small private sector to start in Cuba and also reopened diplomatic relations with the United States, which had attempted to topple his brother's government a number of times.

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"There is a tradition in Cuba of strong men at the head of the State", said Cuban watcher Arturo Lopez-Levy of the University of Texas-Rio Grande.

"He's got more to gain than to lose be being [visible] out there", Williams said.

Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba's presidential designate, is from a younger generation of leaders and has advocated modernising the island.

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