On Thursday, Raul Castro officially relinquished his role as the President of Cuba. He has been replaced by 57-year-old Miguel Diaz Canel. This historic event marks the end of a dynasty, as it is the first time that a Castro is not publically at the helm in Cuba. With the Castro’s gone from the position as head of state, can we finally see some change in Cuba?
On Wednesday, Diaz Canel was chosen as the sole candidate for the presidency, leading him to get all 605 votes from the national assembly in the election. Canel was the First Vice President of the National Assembly and before that a Minister of Education, however; before his selection, he was more or less just an unknown official from the Communist Party of Cuba, another face in the crowd that sat below the Castro table. According to state media, he hosted meetings in Cuba with leaders of El Salvador, Spain, Germany, the Vatican, Mexico, India, Pakistan, Portugal, South Africa, the UAE, and even with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
According to Christopher Sabatini, a lecturer of international relations and policy at Columbia University, the mystery and confusion surrounding the new President is very much intentional. Sabatini claims that Cuba’s Communist Party were the ones to carefully design this candidate in such a way as to suggest someone who is in touch with the country’s younger generation and is ready to bring about certain changes.
“He likes the Rolling Stones. He likes The Beatles. He has an iPad. We hear that repeated over and over,” Sabatini said. “That to me smacks of a well-managed [public relations] campaign.”
Canel is not much of a speaker, though when he had let his voice heard he has shown a degree of suspicion toward the intentions of his northern neighbours, the Americans, and has demonstrated his dedicated support towards the Marxist-Leninist fundamentals of his country; in other words, his views line up perfectly within the boundaries set by the Castors before him.
During an interview in October, he lashed out against the American government, saying:”Imperialism can never be trusted, not even a tiny bit, never.” In another interview, he said that the dissidents in Cuban society were funded foreign actors paid to brew up a scandal, adding:
“We will shut it down, […] Let the scandal ensue. Let them say we censor. Everyone censors.”
After being sworn in, Canel gave a speech to the National assembly saying “The Revolution continues its course,‘ and claimed that there was “no room in Cuba for those who strive for the restoration of capitalism“.
However, these statements will play little role in how his policies are shaped; the nature of this change was not a radical one, but one of the status quo in Cuba. Raul Castro resigned due to deteriorating health, and the replacement, his candidate, was the perfect choice for him to continue the legacy the Castros had built up in Cuba. Castro will still remain the First Secretary of the Communist Party, the only legal party in Cuba, meaning, behind the scenes and the apparent change in leadership, the power still very much rests with him, and not with Canel.
Featured Image Credits: AP