Cuba's presidential transition bringing no joy to its exiles

Diaz-Canel sole candidate to succeed Raul Castro

Diaz-Canel sole candidate to succeed Raul Castro

The government has nominated First Vice President Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel as the sole candidate for president. It's expected to mark the first time in decades that a Castro will not hold that title.

Facing biological reality but still active and apparently healthy, Raul Castro is stepping down as president in an effort to guarantee that new leaders can maintain the government's grip on power in the face of economic stagnation, an aging population and increasing disenchantment among younger generations.

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

At its two-day meeting, the 605-seat National Assembly is to vote in a new Council of State, which counts 31 members and whose head will automatically become president.

An electronics engineer by training, Diaz-Canel has often appeared more in tune with the times than his elderly khaki-clad predecessors, Raul and his brother Fidel, who ruled the Caribbean island for the past six decades.

Castro will remain head of the Communist Party, the most powerful official organ in Cuba.

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

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

But, steps towards a normalization of ties have been severely curtailed since Donald Trump arrived in the White House past year.

He says exiles don't like the lack of transparency around the handoff, and the dearth of information about Diaz-Canel.

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As in Cuba's legislative elections, all of the leaders being voted in on Wednesday were selected by a government-appointed commission.

Diaz-Canel smiled and joined the applause of the president.

Castro's attempts to break diplomatic ground with the USA under President Obama have been largely reversed after President Trump took office.

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

Fidel Castro died in November 2016 at the age of 90.

"The new president will have to create a new political consensus, he won't inherit one", said Rafael Hernandez, editor of the magazine Temas, which is affiliated to the Culture Ministry but takes a reformist stance.

He will become the island's first leader born after the 1959 revolution not named Castro.

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

However, many Cubans say they feel distant from politics, preferring to focus on making ends meet within the limited economic opportunities that opened as Castro allowed more small businesses in recent years.

He said there would be no compromise in Cuba's foreign policy, which is marked by volatile relations with the United States.

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