Cuba has finally said adieu to a Communist-run era as Miguel Diaz-Canel takes the office of 86-year-old President Raul Castro who stepped down, formally handing the power to his long-time deputy.
Cuba has finally said adieu to a Communist-run era as Miguel Diaz-Canel takes the office of 86-year-old President Raul Castro who stepped down, formally handing the power to his long-time deputy. 57-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel is a top Communist Party figure who has served as the Vice-President since 2013. The most striking part of Diaz-Canel becoming the President is that he will become the island’s first leader born after the 1959 revolution and the first in 60 years who is not named Castro. The transfer of power comes a day before the new president’s 58th birthday.
An electronics engineer by training, Diaz-Canel bucked party orthodoxy by backing an LGBT-friendly cultural centre. Diaz-Canel is a fan of The Beatles and has a penchant for wearing jeans that have set him apart in Havana’s corridors of power. Although he has advocated fewer restrictions on the press and a greater openness to the internet, he also has a ruthless streak, with harsh words for Cuba’s dissidents and the United States.
After he is sworn in, Diaz-Canel will be tasked with pursuing reforms begun by Castro to open up Cuba’s economy to small private entrepreneurs and reach a rapprochement with its Cold War arch-enemy, the United States. His recent public statements have focused on the need for continuity and to fight imperialism, a defiant and well-worn message as Cuba faces renewed tensions with the United States since Donald Trump took office. Diaz-Canel will also inherit a youthful population hungry for change on the Caribbean island — one of the world’s last outposts of Communism since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
After 605 delegates of the National Assembly cast their votes for the new Council of State on Wednesday, the suspense over the identity of Cuba’s new leader ended with Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez being chosen as the new president. Thursday’s session will formalize the vote.
Meanwhile, Raul Castro, 86, will retain considerable power as he will remain head of the Communist Party until a congress in 2021. Raul has been in power since 2006, when he took over after illness sidelined Fidel, who seized power in the revolution.