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Bureaucrat is to replace Raul Castro as Cuban President

HAVANA – A 57-year-old bureaucrat will take the place of Raul Castro as Cuba's president on Thursday, while a government run by a single family for six decades will try to shut down the country protect long-term survival of one of the last communist states in the world

Members of the National Assembly voted on Wednesday the nomination of Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez as the only candidate for president. The result will not be officially announced until Thursday morning, but it's already clear that the Assembly approves all executive claims with a margin of 95 percent or more.

The 86-year-old Castro will continue to remain chairman of the Communist Party, referred to by the Constitution as "the superior leader of society and the state". He remains the most powerful person in Cuba until further notice.

His departure from the presidency is nevertheless a symbolically charged moment for a country that has been under the absolute rule of a family since the revolution – first by revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and a decade ago by his younger brother.

Raul Castro faces biological reality but is still active and apparently healthy. The Chancellor resigns as President to guarantee that new politicians can maintain the power of the government among the younger generations in the face of economic stagnation, the aging population and growing disappointment.

"I like to stick to the ideas of President Fidel Castro because he has done a lot for the people of Cuba, but we need a rejuvenation, especially in business," said Melissa Mederos, 21 years old schoolteacher. "Diaz-Canel has to work hard on the economy because people have to live a little better."

Most Cubans know their first vice-president as an uncharismatic personality, who until recently has maintained such a low public profile that it virtually did not exist. This picture changed slightly this year as the state media increasingly focused on Diaz-Canel's public appearances, including last month's remarks to the press, which contained his promise to better cater for the Cuban government.

Relationship between the government and the people here, "he said after voting for members of the National Assembly." The lives of those who are elected must focus on dealing with people, listening to people, their problems

Diaz-Canel officially became known as the supreme communist party in the province of Villa Clara, a post corresponding to the governor, and people describe him as a hard-working, modestly-living techno-striker seeking improvement He became Minister of Higher Education in 2009 before becoming Vice President

In a video from a Communist Party meeting that inexplicably became publicity last year, Diaz-Canel brought a number of orthodox positions Expressing independent media and labeling of some European embassies But he has also defended academics and bloggers who have become targets of hardliners who dissuade him to be a potential advocate for more openness in a near-intolerant system or criticism. International observers and Cubans will scrutinize every move he makes after taking office.

Two years after taking over his sick brother in 2006, Castro launched a series of reforms that will expand Cuba's private sector to nearly 600,000 people, allowing citizens greater freedom of movement and access to information. He has failed to repair the generally unproductive and highly subsidized state-owned enterprises that, along with a Soviet-style bureaucracy, employ three out of four Cubans. State salaries averaged $ 30 per month, forcing workers to work to feed their families, and are often dependent on corruption or remittances from relatives abroad.

Castro's steps to open up the economy have largely been frozen or undone of wealth by the new entrepreneurial class in a country that has officially dedicated itself to the equality of its citizens.

"I do not want to see a capitalist system, hopefully it will not come here, but we need to fix the economy," said Roberto Sanchez, a 41-year-old construction worker. "I would like more opportunity to buy a car and have some possessions."

As was the case in the parliamentary elections in Cuba, all leaders elected on Wednesday were selected by a commission appointed by the government. Ballots offer only the option of approval or rejection, and candidates generally receive more than 95 percent of the votes in their favor.

The candidacy committee also nominated six other vice presidents of the State Council, Cuba's highest government body. Only an 85-year-old Ramiro Valdez was one of the revolutionaries who fought with the Castros in the eastern mountains of the Sierra Maestra in the late 1950s.

The state media went full swing on Wednesday with a single message: Cuba's system continues to be the face of change. Commentators on state television and the Internet provided detailed explanations of why Cuba's one-party politics and socialist economy are superior to multiparty democracy and free markets, and assured the Cubans that despite some new faces at the top, no fundamental changes took place. [19659024] "It is up to our generation to give continuity to the revolutionary process," said Jorge Luis Torres, member of the Assembly, a councilor from the central province of Artemisa, who appeared to be in his 40s. "We are a generation born after the revolution whose responsibility drives the fate of the nation."


Associated Press author Ben Fox contributed to this report.

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