Cuban exiles in Miami's Little Havana view Cuban president as Castro's puppet

Cuban exiles in Miami's Little Havana view Cuban president as Castro's puppet

Cuba's presidential designate Miguel Diaz-Canel is an enigma.

Fidel Castro was the prime minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976 and then president from 1976 to 2008.

"The mandate given by the people to this house is to give continuity to the Cuban revolution in a crucial historic moment", Diaz-Canel told the assembly in his first speech as president.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio says the selection of Raul Castro's successor as president of Cuba is a "charade" that will not bring change to the island.

His handpicked successor, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, 57, is a Communist Party loyalist who was born a year after Fidel Castro claimed power in Cuba.

By secret and direct vote the legislators are voting on Diaz Canel and other MPs proposed to hold other posts at the State Council, but the result will not be made public until tomorrow Thursday in the second and final day of the inauguration session of the 9th Legislature.

As a young provincial party chief, Diaz-Canel bucked party orthodoxy by backing an LGBT-friendly cultural centre, reportedly listening to rock music and sporting long hair.

The change in Communist-run Cuba has sparked much debate on the island and beyond. He often arrives at meetings carrying a tablet device.

In a video of a Communist Party meeting that inexplicably leaked to the public a year ago, Diaz-Canel expressed a series of orthodox positions that included somberly pledging to shutter some independent media and labeling some European embassies as outposts of foreign subversion.

Although he has advocated fewer restrictions on the press and a greater openness to the internet, he also has a ruthless streak, with harsh words for Cuba's dissidents and the United States.

The longstanding United States economic embargo on the island, maintained in the years since the Cold War to try to pressure Havana into change, is commonly referred to as a blockade by the Cuban government. He is unlikely to challenge one-party rule.

Diaz-Canel will have a guiding hand on his shoulder, however. Political campaigning is banned in Cuba and Diaz-Canel has avoided the showboating that has ended the careers of other political pretenders over the years. As a result, Castro is nearly certain to remain the most powerful person in Cuba for the time being.

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

"We have come a long way so that our children, those of the present and those of the future, will be happy", Mr Castro, 86, said in one of his last speeches as the leader last month.

"If Raul Castro steps down, it means nothing to me because I have nothing to go back to Cuba for", he said.

The lawmakers also elected the National Assembly's board.

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