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Miguel Diaz-Canel Ex VP sole candidate to succeed Cuba's Castro: official

Miguel Diaz-Canel is the sole candidate to succeed Cuba's President Raul Castro, officials announced Wednesday on the eve of a vote in the National Assembly.

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Miguel Diaz-Canel (C) is assured of succeeding outgoing President Raul Castro (L) after being declared the sole candidate for the post play

Miguel Diaz-Canel (C) is assured of succeeding outgoing President Raul Castro (L) after being declared the sole candidate for the post

(AFP)

Miguel Diaz-Canel is the sole candidate to succeed Cuba's President Raul Castro, officials announced Wednesday on the eve of a vote in the National Assembly.

Diaz-Canel, a 57-year-old Communist Party official and the country's current first vice president, is due to be confirmed on Thursday as the successor to Castro, whose departure will end his family's six-decade grip on power.

The announcement came after the National Assembly began a historic two-day meeting to elect a successor to the 86-year-old Castro, and usher in a post-Castro era.

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

Diaz-Canel has spent decades climbing the party ranks, becoming Castro's right-hand man in 2013.

At the two-day meeting, which began early on Wednesday, 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.

Although the session was initially planned for Thursday, officials decided earlier this week to extend it across two days "to facilitate the procedures during an event of such significance."

The session is closed to the press and no details have been given about the program.

Although the vote could take place on Wednesday, the new president's name is not expected to be made public until Thursday, which is April 19 -- a date heavy with symbolism.

It falls on the 57th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, when the CIA tried to overthrow the leader of the 1959 revolution, Fidel Castro, an episode Havana has long proclaimed as American imperialism's first great defeat in Latin America.

Raul Castro has been in power since 2006, when he took over after illness sidelined Fidel.

Between them, the Castro brothers ruled Cuba for nearly 60 years, making the Caribbean island a key player in the Cold War and helping keep communism afloat despite the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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