Cuban officials have confirmed that Miguel Diaz-Canel is the sole candidate to succeed President Raul Castro.

Mr Diaz-Canel, a 57-year-old Communist Party official and the country's current first vice-president, is due to be confirmed on Thursday as the successor to Mr Castro, whose departure will end his family's six-decade grip on power.

The announcement came after the country’s National Assembly began a historic two-day meeting to elect a successor to the 86-year-old and usher in the post-Castro era.

Mr Diaz-Canel has been widely expected to take over from Mr Castro, who made it clear his deputy was his personal choice.

He spent decades climbing the party ranks, becoming Mr Castro's right-hand man in 2013.

At the two-day meeting the 605-seat National Assembly is to vote in a new Council of State, which has 31 members and whose head will automatically become president.

Although the session was initially planned for Thursday, officials decided earlier this week to extend it across two days.


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Miguel Diaz-Canel takes over after almost  60 years of Castro rule
Raul Castro attending the National Assembly meeting in Havana

The confirmation of a new president comes on the 57th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, when the CIA tried to overthrow the leader of the 1959 revolution, Fidel Castro, an episode Havana has long proclaimed as American imperialism's first great defeat in Latin America.

Raul Castro has been in power since 2008, when he took over after illness sidelined Fidel, who died in 2016 aged 90.

Between them, the Castro brothers ruled Cuba for nearly 60 years, making the Caribbean island a key player in the Cold War and helping keep communism afloat despite the collapse of the Soviet Union.