The country’s Communist Party hierarchy chose Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel as first secretary on Monday, replacing Raul Castro after announcing his retirement last week.
As head of state and head of the only legally authorized political party on the island, Diaz-Canel must chart the course for the Cuban revolution, now that the guerrilla commanders who took power in 1959 are all dead or old.
“Comrade Raul will be consulted on the most important strategic decisions for the fate of our nation. He will always be present,” Diaz-Canal said of Castro, accepting the new post.
Born in 1960, the same year the Castro family nationalized all American property in Cuba, Diaz-Canel does not exude Fidel’s charisma or Raul’s authority. While he spent three years in the military, unlike the Castros, Diaz-Canel is a pencil-pushing bureaucrat rather than a revolutionary in an olive-green uniform. That said, he would go down in history as the first Cuban to lead the government and the unnamed Communist Party, Castro.
And knowing how to navigate Cuba’s dysfunctional bureaucracy may prove to be a more vital skill than commanding a battalion, as even many of Raul Castro’s flagship proposals – to remake the Port of Mariel into a manufacturing center and unify the two currencies of Cuba – have become trapped in the bog of bureaucracy that seems to weigh on all Cuban government businesses.
The new Cuban leader has made rising through the ranks in the Communist-led system his life’s work, while enjoying the unwavering support of Raul Castro.
“Diaz-Canel is not the product of improvisation but a thoughtful selection of a young revolutionary with the conditions for promotion to senior positions,” Castro said in his Friday speech to the Communist Party Congress, which was summoned to select the replacement of the aging revolutionary.
The Castro legacy
Since his accession to the Cuban presidency in 2018, Diaz-Canel has put forward the image of a younger and more dynamic leader ‚one who posts on social networks and reads from a tablet during meetings government. His policies, however, have been as conservative if not more than that of Raul Castro. It is a strategy that aims to assure the older generation who still occupy key political positions that they will not undermine their revolution.
He will need this political support to respond to widespread discontent with a shrinking economy, increased US sanctions, and increasingly tech savvy anti-government splinter groups.
Addressing opposition activists whom he described as “lumpen mercenaries”, Diaz-Called warned that “the patience of the people has limits”.
Some critics of the Cuban government say the transition is truly a smokescreen.
“The Castro regime is trying to deceive the international community by saying, ‘Oh now the Castros are no longer in power, now a new guy has the reins of the country and is really going to run the country in a different way. BS!’ Said Representative Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL), a Cuban-American congresswoman who won her seat in 2020, promising tougher sanctions against Cuba.
“The Castros are still in power,” she said.
Even though no family member holds leadership positions, there is no doubt that the Castros will continue to wield great influence as long as the Communist government and the mighty army they built remain intact.
On Monday, General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, son-in-law of Raul Castro, who runs a large military company that controls state-owned hotels, marinas and infrastructure projects, was first appointed to the Politburo , the executive. Cuban Communist Party committee.
Years of retirement in preparation
Raul Castro has said for years that his retirement is on the way.
Unlike his older brother Fidel, who was head of state for 49 years and planned to stay in office until his death, Raul Castro implemented measures to restrict Cuban presidents to two five-year terms and require them to be under 60 years of age at the start of their first term.
He will be 90 in June, the same age as his older brother and mentor Fidel Castro when he died in 2016.
After a mysterious illness forced Fidel Castro out of power in 2008, he continued to write articles and influence the news. In contrast, Raul Castro is expected to keep a low profile in retirement.
Since his resignation from the presidency in 2018, Raul Castro has made few public appearances. During those with Miguel Diaz-Canel, he lets his successor speak.
He spends more time in a large, well-kept house, in what was an upper-class neighborhood before the Cuban Revolution, in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, near where Fidel Castro is buried.
When CNN visited Santiago in 2020, city residents referred to the house as ‘punto cero’ or ‘zero point’, the same nickname given to the head of state’s residence, where Fidel Castro was once again called. lived his last years in Havana.
While Fidel Castro’s funeral plans were, before his death, a state secret, Raul Castro has already erected a grave in his name next to the grave of his wife Vilma Espín, a fellow guerrilla warrior who died in 2007, in a pantheon of revolutionaries. who fought alongside them.
Raul Castro, rarely giving the long speeches his brother once gave, gave an unusually long speech on Friday that lasted more than two hours.
“I will continue to fight as one more revolutionary fighter,” he said. “Ready to make my modest contribution until the end of my life.”