An era will end in Communist-run Cuba on Thursday when President Raul Castro retires, likely handing over the reins to his right hand man Miguel Diaz-Canel, born the year after brothers Fidel and Raul led their 1959 leftist revolution.
However after nearly 60 years of Castro rule, the change is not expected to herald sweeping reforms to the island’s state-run economy and one-party system, one of the last in the world.
First Vice President Diaz-Canel, 57, is seen as a stalwart of the Communist Party, designated by the constitution as Cuba’s guiding political force, who has worked his way up the party’s ranks over three decades.
Raul Castro, 86, will retain considerable power as he will remain head of the Communist Party until a congress in 2021.
For many Cubans, struggling with economic hardships, the transition in leader is seen as merely symbolic.
“We always wish the symbolic would translate into real and concrete actions for our lives,” said Jose Jasan Nieves, 30, the editor of an alternative news outlet to the state-run media monopoly. “But this isn’t the case.”
Lawmakers will gather at 0900 ET at a convention center in a leafy Havana suburb to announce the results of their vote on the unopposed candidacy of Diaz-Canel, put forward by a party-backed commission on Wednesday. He will be immediately sworn-in.