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Cuban state media say new president to be elected Wednesday

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Cubans wary of future as lawmakers meet to replace Castro

The government has nominated First Vice President Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel as the sole candidate for 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. It is the first time since the 1959 revolution that a Castro brother has not occupied Cuba's top office.

The rubber-stamp National Assembly voted on the proposal to promote Diaz-Canel, who is now first vice president. At Castro's side in the party leadership will be fellow old-guard revolutionary Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, 87. The white-haired, generally unsmiling Diaz-Canel had been seen at greatest length in a leaked video of a Communist Party meeting where he somberly pledged to shutter some independent media and labeled some European embassies as outposts of foreign subversion.

"I like sticking with the ideas of President Fidel Castro because he did a lot for the people of Cuba, but we need rejuvenation, above all in the economy", said Melissa Mederos, a 21-year-old schoolteacher. The new president and state council are due to be sworn in on Thursday.

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

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.

"It's unclear how free a hand Diaz-Canel will have".

Cuba's economy remains smaller per capita than it was in 1985, when it had the support of Communist ally, the Soviet Union, according to one study.

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Raul Castro in March was reelected in March as a member of the country's parliament.

He gave more freedoms to Cubans, allowing them to travel, visit resorts on the island previously reserved for foreigners and gradually increasing internet access, although opposition groups still face official harassment.

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

The legislators then cast secret ballots and were expected to nearly unanimously support the slate.

A big day in Cuba's history as Raul Castro ends his 10-years in power and the closing the 60-year Castro reign in Cuba; Steve Harrigan has the latest updates from Havana, Cuba. Only one of the five, 85-year-old Ramiro Valdez, was among the Communist revolutionaries who fought with the Castros in the eastern Sierra Maestra mountains.

"Any change in Cuba is reason to celebrate", said Cuban-American Christina Ibanez.

However, the group with Saavedra said the only way any real change can happen is through democracy.

A few even call for political reform.

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