For the past 53 years Cuba has had a president with the last name Castro: Fidel and Raul, who announced he will step down in 2018 at the end of his second five-year term as president.
Castro appointed his potential successor as vice president at a meeting of the National Assembly: Miguel Diaz-Canel, 52, the youngest non-military man to come so close to take the top office in Cuba since the Castro brothers took power in 1959.
Diaz-Canel is a former engineering professor and long-time Communist Party insider who rose through the ruling Communist Party's ranks including key posts outside the capital and enjoys some name recognition at home, though is far less well known abroad.
He enjoys strong ties with the military from his two years of military service. As a member of the Communist Party, he has held top posts in two important provinces, Villa Clara and Holguin, which are centers of the booming tourism industry as well as new private-sector activity, both key elements of an economic reform process being pushed by Raul Castro.
"This is a major change in Cuba, not just generational," said Arturo Lopez-Levy, an analyst at the University of Denver who used to work for the Cuban interior ministry on intelligence issues and U.S. relations. "The promotion of Diaz-Canel should be seen as part of an institutional change in the way the Cuban elite is promoted."
Diaz-Canel’s experience will help Castro advance reforms designed to make the economy more efficient and bring in more foreign currency, without loosening the Communist Party's political control.
He was brought to Havana in 2009 to become minister of higher education and then a vice president of the Council of Ministers. He is seen within the Communist Party as incorruptible, a staunch communist, and a nationalist loyal to the Castros' revolutionary vision.
He has a reputation as an effective manager and for negotiating the fine line between Raul Castro's reform agenda and the sometimes more dogmatic doctrine of provincial party members resistant to change.
In Cuba, there is no political campaigning, so proven loyalty and strong connections inside the party and the military are more valuable than ties with the media.