Little Known of Castro’s Likely Successor

(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

By Massy Vainshtein

With the life of Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro still being commemorated throughout the island nation, Cubans already are anticipating the likely end of Raul Castro’s presidency; Fidel’s brother and successor is expected to step down in February of 2018. But there is little buzz about the likely candidate to replace Castro, Miguel Diaz-Canel, who remains relatively unknown in the streets of Cuba.

There has been speculation about Miguel Diaz-Canel becoming president since 2013, when he was elected to First Vice President of the Council State of Cuba, said Dr. Margaret E. Crahan, director of the Cuba Program at the Institute for Latin American Studies at Columbia University. “But there is no definitive evidence to that effect,” she said.

After almost 30 years of moving up the Communist Party hierarchy, Diaz-Canel is in a position to be a direct successor to Raul Castro, who assumed the position in 2008 after his brother Fidel stepped down following 49 years as the leader of Cuba.

Unlike his predecessors, Diaz-Canel does not have a military background and would be the first civilian leader elected to Cuba’s highest office.

Very little has been written about Diaz-Canel in American publications, and scant mention has been made of what his policies might be.

The lack of information “probably reflects lack of in-depth knowledge about Cuba by the U.S. media,” said Crahan. Much of this is because, unlike the Castros, Diaz-Canel remains largely in the shadows, often maintaining a low profile. Other possible successors, such as Carlos Lage, the second vice president, and Felipe Perez Roque, the foreign minister, were ousted from the govenrment in 2009, perhaps for appearing to be too ambitious. Which begs the question: what kind of President would Diaz-Canel be?

“Diaz-Canel is a social pragmatist much like Raul,” said Marc Frank, a journalist for Reuters in Cuba. “But if the Cuban government wants to keep young people from leaving, they need to give them more access to the Internet.”

One of the youngest politicians within the government, Diaz-Canel, 56, has the advantage of appealing to young Cubans. Before President Obama’s recent cessation of the Cuban Adjustment Act, which gave Cuban immigrants a path to citizenship once they stepped on American soil, many young Cubans eagerly fled to the United States in the hopes of finding more opportunities.

Diaz-Canel spoke to journalists after his election as first vice president about the secrecy of the state-run media and the need for widespread Internet use to mitigate its message. But some young Cubans remain skeptical of Diaz-Canel.

“Diaz-Canel is smart and capable, but Cuba’s problems will not be solved by a new president,” said a university student, Pablo V. Bordon, 24. “The entire system is polluted; it blocks ideas for new developments.”

Despite speculation about what Diaz-Canel’s Cuba might look like, his policies remain a mystery.