Cuba swears in Miguel Diaz-Canel to replace Castro as president

HAVANA, April 19 (Reuters) - Cuban Communist Party stalwart Miguel Diaz-Canel replaced Raul Castro as president on Thursday, a new chapter for the island after nearly sixty years of rule by the Castro brothers but a change that is aimed at preserving Cuban socialism.

The National Assembly swore in Diaz-Canel, with 603 out of 604 lawmakers present voting for the 57-year old, marking a generational shift from 86-year old Castro.

The transition, while a historic shift from an era that started with Fidel and Raul Castro's 1959 revolution, was not expected to herald sweeping changes to the island's state-run economy and one-party system, one of the last in the world.

Diaz-Canel is seen as a loyalist of the Communist Party, which is designated by the constitution as Cuba's guiding political force, and he has worked his way up the party's ranks over three decades.

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Cuba swears in Miguel Diaz-Canel as its new president
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Cuba swears in Miguel Diaz-Canel as its new president
A woman watches on TV at her house in Havana as outgoing Cuban President Raul Castro (R) raises the arm of Cuba's new President Miguel Diaz-Canel after he was formally named by the National Assembly on April 19, 2018. - Miguel Diaz-Canel succeeds Raul Castro -- a historic handover ending six decades of rule by the Castro brothers. The 57-year-old Diaz-Canel, who was the only candidate for the presidency, was elected to a five-year term with 603 out of 604 possible votes in the National Assembly. (Photo by Yamil LAGE / AFP) (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
People watch on TV at home in Havana as outgoing Cuban President Raul Castro (R) embraces Cuba's new President Miguel Diaz-Canel after he was formally named by the National Assembly on April 19, 2018. - Miguel Diaz-Canel succeeds Raul Castro -- a historic handover ending six decades of rule by the Castro brothers. The 57-year-old Diaz-Canel, who was the only candidate for the presidency, was elected to a five-year term with 603 out of 604 possible votes in the National Assembly. (Photo by Yamil LAGE / AFP) (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Cuban President Raul Castro (R) smiles and applaud as First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel is named as the candidate to succeed him as president, during a National Assembly session in Havana on April 18, 2018. Miguel Diaz-Canel is the sole candidate to succeed Cuba's President Raul Castro, officials announced Wednesday on the eve of a vote in the National Assembly. / AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - APRIL 18: (L-R) Cuba's President Raul Castro and Jose Ram� Machado Ventura look documents during the session of the legislature of the National Assembly at Convention Palace on April 18, 2018 in Havana, Cuba. Diaz-Canel will be the first non-Castro Cuban president since 1976. Raul Castro steps down after 12 years. (Photo by Ernesto Mastrascusa/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - APRIL 18: Miguel Diaz-Canel (R), expected succesor of Cuba's President Raul Castro, looks on next to the president of the Cuban parliament Esteban Lazo Hern�dez (L) at Convention Palace on April 18, 2018 in Havana, Cuba. Diaz-Canel will be the first non-Castro Cuban president since 1976. Raul Castro steps down after 12 years. (Photo by Ernesto Mastrascusa/Getty Images)
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Castro, who was president from 2008 when he took over from his ailing older brother Fidel, will retain considerable clout as he will remain head of the Communist Party until a congress in 2021.

For many Cubans, struggling with economic hardships and frustrated with the government's emphasis on continuity rather than change, the transition in leader is seen as unlikely to bring much beyond the symbolism of a new leader.

"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."

Cubans hope the next government can resurrect one of the world's last Soviet-style centrally planned economies that has failed to improve under limited market reforms by Castro.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Frank Jack Daniel Editing by Michael Perry and Frances Kerry)

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Cuba's President Raul Castro gestures as he arrives for the ceremony marking the 64th anniversary of the July 26, 1953 rebel assault which former Cuban leader Fidel Castro led on the Moncada army barracks, Pinar del Rio, Cuba, July 26, 2017. REUTERS/Alejandro Ernesto/Pool TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Cuba's President Raul Castro arrives for the ceremony marking the 64th anniversary of the July 26, 1953 rebel assault which former Cuban leader Fidel Castro led on the Moncada army barracks, Pinar del Rio, Cuba, July 26, 2017. REUTERS/Alejandro Ernesto/Pool
Cuba's President Raul Castro attends an ALBA alliance summit to mark fourth anniversary of the death of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela, March 5, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Cuba's President Raul Castro waves beside Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura (L), General Guillermo Garcia (2ndR) and Commander of the Revolution Ramiro Valdes as they watch a march to mark the Armed Forces Day and commemorate the landing of the yacht Granma, which brought the Castro brothers, Ernesto "Che" Guevara and others from Mexico to Cuba to start the revolution in 1959, in Havana, Cuba, January 2, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (C, rear) and Raul Castro's grandson and bodyguard Raul Rodriguez Castro (R) look on as Cuban President Raul Castro gestures at a tribute to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, December 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Cuban President Raul Castro waves at a tribute to his brother and late former Cuban leader Fidel Castro (shown in large image on wall) in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, December 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (R) welcomes Cuban President Raul Castro to the 17th Non-Aligned Summit in Porlamar, Venezuela September 17, 2016. REUTERS/Marco Bello
Cuba's President Raul Castro reads the Havana Declaration: ?United for a Sustainable Caribbean? during the closing ceremony of the 7th Summit of Heads of State for the Association of Caribbean States in Havana, Cuba, June 4, 2016.REUTERS/Jorge Luis Banos/Pool
Cuban President Raul Castro waves as he arrives to attend a speech by U.S. President Barack Obama at the Gran Teatro in Havana, Cuba March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Cuba's president Raul Castro talks to the media during Pope Francis departure at Jose Marti airport in Havana February 12, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa
Cuba's President Raul Castro (C) gestures to journalists after the departure of Pope Francis from Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, February 12, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Cuba's president Raul Castro and former Uruguayan president Jose Mujica (L) lead the march of the torches in celebration of the 163rd birth anniversary of Cuba's independence hero Jose Marti in Havana January 27, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa
Cuba's President Raul Castro speaks to the media next to Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (not pictured) during a news conference at the Yucatan State Government Palace in Merida, Mexico November 6, 2015. Castro is in Mexico on an official three-day visit. REUTERS/Henry Romero
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