Raul Castro hands baton to Miguel for Revolution 2.O

Cuba swearing in new president today to succeed Raul Castro

The Cuban National Assembly has formally elected Miguel Diaz-Canel as the country's new president.

The move to a younger generation of Communist leaders is historic on an island dominated for almost 60 years by Fidel Castro and then his brother Raul.

Castro praised Diaz-Canel's leadership as a Communist Party official dating back to the "special period" of the 1990s when Cuba faced a deep economic crisis following the loss of subsidies because of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul, have together been in power for almost 60 years since the Cuba's Communist revolution in 1959 overthrew the US-backed dictatorial regime of Fulgencio Batista.

Cubans in the island and overseas hope the new leader will improve the efficiency and sustainability of Cuba's socialist development and continue important economic and social reforms.

Diaz-Canel is expected to continue the limited economic reform process begun under Raul Castro.

He spent decades climbing the party ranks, becoming Raul Castro's right-hand man in 2013. Raul is the brother of the late Fidel Castro, who overthrew Dictator Fulgencio Batista in the 1959 revolution and led the country for decades.

Miguel Diaz-Canel was officially named as the new leader of Cuba on Thursday, one day after a vote in the country's National Assembly.

Among the first world leaders to congratulate the new leader were China's President Xi Jinping and President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico.

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- Early life: Born April 20, 1960, and raised in central Villa Clara Province. Hard-working, modest-living, unsmiling technocrat dedicated to public services is the kind of image that he seems to have been cultivating - all the while keeping a rather low-profile.

According to Ted Piccone, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, the Trump administration will most likely "double down" on its "embrace of punitive regime change" in Cuba after Diaz-Canel assumes power.

"It's only more recently that he has become a more public figure".

In line with greater access to the internet and the information it contains, Diaz-Canel is reportedly a proponent of more critical media coverage of the Cuban government. But he is also known to have defended academics and bloggers who are targets of hardliners, leading some to see him a potential advocate for freedom of expression and greater media openness in a system intolerant of virtually any criticism or dissent.

Two years after taking over from his ailing brother in 2006, Castro launched a series of reforms that expanded Cuba's private sector to almost 600,000 people and allowed citizens greater freedom to travel and access to information. He has failed to fix the generally unproductive and highly subsidized state-run businesses that, along with a Soviet-model bureaucracy, employ three of every four Cubans. Ballots offer only the option of approval or disapproval and candidates generally receive more than 95 percent of the votes in their favor.

The Candidacy Commission also nominated another six vice presidents of the Council of State, Cuba's highest government body.

They are: 85-year-old Comandante Ramiro Valdes, Public Health Minister Roberto Tomas Morales Ojeda, Controller General Gladys Maria Bejerano, Ines Maria Chapman, president of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources, and Beatriz Johnson Urrutia, president of government in Santiago province.

State media went into overdrive Wednesday with a single message: Cuba's system is continuing in the face of change.

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