The Castro dynasty, which has ruled Cuba for decades, will finally come to an end this week - at least in terms of titles.
The National Assembly of People's Power (ANPP) of Cuba began a two-day session Wednesday to elect the members of the Council of State and its president.
Although Diaz-Canel represents a new generation, most observers don't expect dramatic changes from the Communist Party stalwart who will turn 58 on Friday.
"There has to be a focus on ties to, links with the people - to listen to the people, investigate the problems that exist and inspire debates about those problems", Diaz-Canel told reporters during recent voting for members of the National Assembly.
Raul, now 86, has been in power since 2006, when he took over after illness sidelined Fidel, who seized power in the revolution.
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Raul received a standing ovation as he entered the Palace of Convention where the National Assembly is meeting.
Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute, says exiles would like to see political reforms that allow opposition candidates to run for Cuba's government, recognition of other parties, and direct popular voting.
"Raul Castro remains head of the sole "legal" party and the armed forces, his son-in-law remains head of the economy, and his son remains a top official in the feared Ministry of the Interior", Diaz-Balart continued.
Diaz-Canel, born after the revolution, is an engineer by training who embraces technology and appears socially liberal.
As in Cuba's legislative elections, all of the leaders selected Wednesday were selected by a government-appointed commission.
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Many at Versailles Restaurant, where there was a massive celebration when Fidel Castro died, viewed the Cuban National Assembly's process as a political transition, but not as political change.
Diaz-Canel smiled and joined the applause of the president.
However, steps towards a normalisation of ties have been severely curtailed since the arrival of President Donald Trump in the White House a year ago.
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"He broke the psychological barrier with more market-oriented reforms", said LeoGrande, "but it is unfinished business". Cuba's next jefe will inherit these problems- and more. This week, after almost 60 years in power and with far less drama, the Castro era will come to an end.
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John Caulfield, the former chief of mission of the U.S. Special Interests Section in Cuba, said that Diaz-Canel has been a longtime "supporter of the Communist Party of Cuba".