Cuba's first non-Castro leader since 1959 has officially been nominated

Miguel Dìaz-Canel, the face of post-Castro Cuba

Miguel Dìaz-Canel, the face of post-Castro Cuba

Cuba's First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel (C) takes part in a session of the National Assembly in Havana, Cuba, April 18, 2018.

Raul Castro has led the State Council since 2008, when he replaced his elder brother, leader of the Cuban revolution Fidel Castro (1926-2016). Also: Police in Iceland say a man suspected of masterminding the theft of six-hundred computers that were used to mine virtual currencies has escaped custody, and for the first time in more than thirty five years, a Hollywood film has been shown in a cinema in Saudi Arabia.

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".

On Wednesday, Castro wore a dark suit in place of military fatigues and sat near Diaz-Canel as an official read out the names of proposed leaders to the 604 legislators gathered at a wood-panelled convention centre in a quiet Havana suburb.

Diaz-Canel smiled and joined the applause of the president. Castro, who is 86, will maintain a powerful presence in Cuba and continue as the head of the Communist Party. Cuba's legislature opened the two-day session that is to elect a successor to President Castro.

It falls on the 57th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, when the Central Intelligence Agency 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. As a result, Castro is nearly certain to remain the most powerful person in Cuba for the time being.

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Some members of Cuba's small dissident community - who are viewed by the government as working for the United States to destabilise the government - have condemned Diaz-Canel's presidency before it has even begun, saying it would simply be more of the same.

As in Cuba's legislative elections, all of the leaders selected Wednesday were selected by a government-appointed commission.

One of the elders of the revolution, 85-year-old Ramiro Valdes, was proposed to the council of state, the country's top executive body, a sign of caution in implementing the generational shift. The new president and state council are due to be sworn in on Thursday. He announced his departure several years ago and has long signalled that Diaz-Canel, a 57-year-old Communist Party stalwart, was his likely successor, carefully managing the transition to ensure political continuity. "Strategically, Diaz-Canel must confront renewed hostility from the USA administration".

John Caulfield, the former chief of mission of the U.S. Special Interests Section in Cuba, said that Diaz-Canel has been a longtime "supporter of the Communist Party of Cuba".

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