Cuba's new president Diaz-Canel vows Communism will go on

The Cuban government on Wednesday selected 57-year-old First Vice President Miguel Mario Diaz Canel Bermudez as the sole candidate to succeed Raul

Cuba swearing in new president today to succeed Raul Castro

The first clues to the mystery of Cuba's future power structure were revealed early Thursday when Raul Castro handed the presidency to Miguel Diaz-Canel, who took office when the 604-member National Assembly said 603 of its members had approved the 57-year-old as the sole official candidate for the top government position. "'There is no room for those who aspire to a capitalist restoration", he said. But he remains head of the Communist Party, the country's ultimate authority. He sharply criticized USA foreign, trade and immigration policy under President Donald Trump. The backslide is characterized by an aggressive and threatening tone, he said. Tourism numbers have more than doubled since Castro and President Barack Obama re-established diplomatic relations in 2015, making Cuba a destination for almost 5 million visitors a year, despite a plunge in relations under the Trump administration.

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.

There has been a renewed chill under Trump, who put a stop to doing business with some Cuban state-run companies and tightened rules for U.S. visitors.

"Only intense and selfless work will give new victories to the homeland and socialism", said Diaz-Canel, aware of the delicate economic scenario he faces.

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"They realized that Raul was at an age and they were in transition mode and they talked about working with a new leadership", said Perea.

"The administration should not recognize this murderous regime until the basic requirements of Helms-Burton are met: all political prisoners must be released; free, fair and transparent elections monitored by worldwide observers must take place; and the Cuban people's fundamental human rights are being respected", Ros-Lehtinen continued.

Diaz-Canel's half-hour speech offered most Cubans by far their greatest exposure to the man long expected to assume the presidency.

Mr Díaz-Canel had been serving as first vice-president for the past five years.

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The 86-year-old Castro will remain head of the Communist Party, designated by the constitution as "the superior guiding force of society and the state".

"The power is passing to a much younger person, with new ideas, new perspectives, so we hope that the reforms will move much faster", said Yani Pulido, a 27-year-old waitress working in a bar in Old Havana.

For many Cubans struggling with economic hardships, the transition in leader is seen as merely symbolic.

"His last name is not Castro and for the first time you'll have someone leading the country who did not participate in the... revolution", August told show hosts Brian Becker and Walter Smolarek. Those reforms have included allowing small businesses from hairdressers to restaurants and encouraging some foreign investment. He called for more austere government spending and responsibility for the country's debt but said a plan to unify the nation's two currencies was causing "a headache".

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