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HAVANA (AP) -- One of the highest-profile members of Cuba's ruling family said Wednesday that the country could be surprised by the person who succeeds her father as president.

Mariela Castro's uncle Fidel led Cuba for a half century before he was succeeded as president by her father, Raul Castro, who has said he plans to step down in February.

International and domestic observers widely expect him to be succeeded by First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, a 57-year-old career Communist Party official whose low-wattage public appearances have left many Cubans unconvinced of his ability to be the first top Cuban leader from outside the Castro family since 1959.

When asked about the succession process, Mariela Castro said: "Sometimes you're going in one direction and suddenly you look over here and go, 'Wow, how interesting, I hadn't focused on this person.'"

"There are always surprises," she concluded.

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