Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez said Sunday in Rio de Janeiro that the election of Miguel Diaz-Canel as first Cuban vice president is a step forward on the island not due to his ideological position but rather because he is less than 80 years old.

"It would be a small change in the National Assembly," she said in remarks to reporters at Copacabana beach on Sunday morning.

The author of the Generacion Y blog said that Diaz-Canel - who was, in fact, confirmed later in the day by the National Assembly as the country's No. 2 official, after President Raul Castro - "is rather faithful to the government. It's easier for us to have a surprise here on the beach than in Havana."

According to Sanchez, one of Cuba's main dissident voices abroad, in Havana speculation had been rife about the possibility that the 52-year-old Diaz-Canel might be elected on Sunday at the regime's No. 2 instead of octogenarian and veteran leader Jose Ramon Machado Ventura.

The Cuban National Assembly met on Sunday to confirm Raul Castro as the country's president for a second term and to elect the country's five vice presidents, as well as the members of the chamber's leadership and the 31 members of the Council of State.

Sanchez received permission from Cuban authorities to travel abroad after waiting for that green light for five years and this past week she began in Brazil an 80-day tour through a dozen Latin American and European countries.

The outspoken blogger arrived in Rio de Janeiro last Saturday for a week-long stay in Brazil and toured the city, hosted by political officials, along with several tourist spots like Copacabana beach and Sugarloaf Mountain.

She is scheduled to travel on Monday on the Czech Republic, the second leg of her international tour. EFE