Cuba Shows Its Next President

Fernando Ravsberg*

Raul Castro announced that this will be his last term, and Miguel Diaz Canel was promoted to his vice president as part of a policy of transferring responsibilities to another generation. Photo Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — Miguel Diaz Canel, a 52-year-old politician, could become the next president of Cuba in five years, when the current president can no longer be re-elected because of a provision — one that he himself has advocated — that limits office to two of five-year terms.

Raul Castro himself today announced that parliament had elected Miguel Diaz-Canel as the first vice president of the State Council, the top body of the executive. He replaces Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, one of the historicos of the guerrilla struggle in the Sierra Maestra Mountains.

Also see Cuba and the Passing of the Baton

Alternately, Ricardo Alarcon was replaced as the president of the National Assembly. He had led parliament for two decades and was one of the seven leaders named by Fidel Castro as possible successors in office when he stepped down in 2006.

Alarcon was replaced by Esteban Lazo (to date the ideological secretary of the Communist Party), who many accuse of belonging to the PCC orthodoxy. From that position he controlled the press, the social sector that has shown the greatest immobility.

“This will be my last term in office”

Raul Castro made it clear that he would not be reelected for a third term — saying “regardless of the date the constitutional reform [specifying the term limits] is made, this will be my last term” — and he immediately announced the appointment of Miguel Diaz Canel as his first vice president.

Miguel Diaz Canel, the politician who has become Raul Castro’s number two man, is a party leader who rose in the ranks in the provinces, far from the central power and with a string of managerial successes. Photo Raquel Perez

The appointment is symptomatic because never has a leader who didn’t fight in the revolution reach the position of first vice president. In addition, he’s also a member of the politburo of the Communist Party (PCC), the most powerful body on the island.

Without a doubt, Miguel Diaz Canel is seen by the “historic generation” as the face of socialist continuity in Cuba, a transition that’s also unavoidable since almost all the fighters of the Sierra Maestra are in or near their 80s.

But his case isn’t an isolated event. The average age of the 31 new members of the executive body is 57, and one of its five vice presidents — Mercedes Lopez Acea, the secretary of the Party in Havana — is 49.

A leader on a bicycle

Diaz Canel was a university professor, a professional member of the Young Communist League, the first secretary of the Party in the provinces of Villa Clara and Holguin, appointed to the Central Committee in 1991, and promoted to the Party’s Political Bureau in 2003.

He belongs to a group of party leaders who directed provinces that, being far from the capital, were allowed considerable independence and maneuverability. Indeed, the personal characteristics of a provincial secretary mark the life of the region they govern.

In the case of Villa Clara, the presence of Diaz Canel at the head of the province allowed for a cultural life and tolerance that were rare in other parts of the island. National transvestite and tattoo festivals were held in his province, which also centered a very large rock movement.

However, unlike other provincial secretaries, for a long time Diaz Canel traveled by bicycle and wore shorts and t-shirts. Even in one of our BBC Mundo trips to Santa Clara, we found him there in line at a pizzeria.

By assuming the presidency of the parliament, Esteban Lazo will have to step down as the ideological secretary of the PCC, which opens up the possibility of some opening for the press, which has been tightly controlled by the Ideological Department. Photo Raquel Perez

No adios for Alarcon

The replacement of Ricardo Alarcon as the head of the parliament wasn’t surprising since Miguel Alvarez, his lieutenant, is now in jail. Informal versions say that he and his wife gave information to the US intelligence services.

What was really curious was that in President Raul Castro’s closing speech, he didn’t make the slightest reference to Alarcon – who led the parliament for 20 years, served as the country’s foreign minister and was the chief negotiator with the US on the immigration agreements.

Esteban Lazo’s appointment as chairman of the National Assembly could bring a more active and pragmatic leadership if what’s wanted is a parliament that — as Castro said — delves “into issues of greater complexity and depth.”

But Lazo could hardly play that role and simultaneously serve as the ideological secretary of the PCC. Therefore, changes are expected in that post, which has exercised full control over the Cuban press, immobilizing it, while the rest of the country was being transformed.
(*) An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.



10 thoughts on “Cuba Shows Its Next President

  • According to today’s GRANMA, Raul DID thank Alarcon for his long service as President of the National Assembly, and indicated that The Revolution will continue to rely on his talents. Despite his minor–and comical–gaff a couple of years back when he mentioned something about “the skies becoming black” with “too many planes” if Cubans were allowed more easy access to foreign travel (which, incidentally, has subsequently come true, via government policy, much to the chagrin of those “defenders of democracy” who are forever lamenting the roadblocks to travel), I’ve always liked Alarcon. He has always been a witty and articulate defender of The Revolution.

  • Our necrophillic – and now religious zealot speaking of ‘the devil’ and such –
    ‘friend’ attacks again with his typical arrogance. Reminds me
    of Ai Weiwei’s critique to Nobel Prize winner Mo Yang, when he accused the
    latter of being far away from reality and not worthy of representing
    China today. Mo Yang with all his wisdom replied brilliantly in a Der
    Spiegel intervew: ‘Which intellectual is able to represent China? I certainly am not. Does Ai Weiwei claim to represent China? Those who represent China are the ones cleaning up the trash and building roads with their own hands.’

    No matter how hard you try, you will never, EVER be the spokesperson for the people, Uncle Sam.

  • Hija de Fidel dice que con Díaz-Canel Castro gana tiempo para preparar a un sucesor de la familia

    Daughter of Fidel says that with Diaz-Canel, Castro buys time to prepare a successor from the family
    Fidel Castro’s daughter, Alina Fernandez, told NTN 24 that the naming of Miguel Diaz-Canel as the number two leader behind Raul Castro is nothing more than an attempt by the regime to “buy some time.” According to Fernandez, the objective is to have more time to create “a leader from the family.” For the daughter of Fidel, who lives in the United States, the Castro brothers are “the kings of improvisation,” and she says that “the only reason this dictatorship continues to exist is because it receives all types of support from the outside.”

    So it seems Diaz-Canal is a place holder. The next president will be a Castro, possible Alejandro Castro Espin, a colonel in the Ministry of the Interior. He would certainly be a key position to gain full power when the time comes.

  • That fact has been picked up. As has the fact that so many of the Castro clan occupy powerful spots in the regime. It’s a family affair.

  • It is widely assumed that Mariela Castro finally decided to add member of Parliament to her resume to assure her ability to be given a visa by various countries, including the US, under international diplomatic rules. With a rich Italian husband (Italian husband, Cuban wife, so cliche), Mariela is a reach for President of the Socialist Republic of Cuba.

  • I don’t think anyone has picked up on the fact that Mariela Castro has entered parliament for the first time. I can’t wait to see the look on Moses’s face if she ever becomes a future president or vice-president.

  • As long as the Castros are alive and in power, this sort of nonsense is possible in Cuba. The Castros appear to have made a deal with the devil to stay in power as long as they have. I am suggesting that ‘all bets are off’ when the Castros are gone. Cubans will not continue to play sheep forever. Sooner or later (hopefully sooner) they will rise up in defense of their humanity. Miguel Diaz-Canel does not have the personal charisma or the Castro last name to maintain the iron-fisted control over the people that this regime has cultivated for the last 54 years. He is also not as established as he should be with the military powers-that-be. He only gets to sit at the grown-ups table because Raul (by definition Fidel) says he can. He is not well known among average Cubans and even less outside of Cuba. His only hope is that in the next five years, the Castros allow him to step forward while they step back. Keep in mind that a physically and mentally deteriorated Fidel continues to clamor for attention as his health permits with his frequent book releases, once frequent ‘reflections’, and the odd public appearance. Can the Castros trust anyone not named ‘Castro’ to be out front? They will have to if they want the new kid to take over in five years.

  • “Cuba Shows Its Next President”

    Wow, the Cuban people are so lucky! They only just finished voting for all 612 candidates they were told to vote for, who then re-elected the President they were told to re-elect, and now they learn who their next president will be!

    Life is so much easier when you don’t have a choice.

  • Welcome truth Ravsberg — as always.

    The writer worth reading (along with Campos).

  • “Alarcon was replaced by Esteban Lazo (to date the ideological secretary of the Communist Party), who many accuse of belonging to the PCC orthodoxy.”

    Here the UK regime journalist F. Ravsberg uses the technique, common in the pseudo-impartial prose style of imperial propaganda, of couching his own anti-socialist moral and political judgements in terms of the views of anonymous others (“many” in this case, but quite often “analysts”). In this way he slimily frames Lazo’s orthodox communism — something of which Lazo is undoubtedly proud — as a charge of wrongdoing on which he stands accused in front of the hostile self-appointed Judge Ravsberg.

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