HAVANA (AP) -- If all goes as expected, in exactly one year President Raul Castro will hand responsibility for Cuba's faltering economy and aging, disaffected population to a little-known, 57-year-old Communist Party official.
It will be the first time since its founding in 1959 that the Cuban state has not been led by a member of the Castro family. First Fidel Castro, then his younger brother Raul, wielded near-absolute power as head of the government and the ruling Cuban Communist Party. As founders of the modern Cuban army, each brandished unquestioned authority as the nation's top military man.
The end of 85-year-old Raul Castro's second five-year term will instantly push Cuba's autocratic, single-party system onto unknown ground.
First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, a stocky, laconic engineer by training who began his career as a provincial bureaucrat, is expected to assume only one of Raul Castro's roles - the presidency. Castro plans to remain first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, a potentially more powerful position, until at least 2021. The Cuban military, meanwhile, became the nation's top economic power during Raul Castro's decade as president and its top generals are expected to be less deferential to Diaz-Canel than they were to the Castro brothers.