Is Miguel Diaz-Canel Cuba’s Commander in Chief?

MIguel Diaz Canel, the new Cuban president. Photo:


Vicente Morin Aguado

HAVANA TIMES — Mistakes in international press are common when it comes to talking about Cuba’s Head of State’s constitutional duties, national press also make these mistakes. An example of this appeared in the Spanish version of the New York Times, which I will reproduce here:

“Though he’s stepping down from the presidency, Raul Castro, 87, will remain the secretary general of the Cuban Communist Party (the only official party, which sets the agenda of the state), and he will keep his post as head of the armed forces, which controls a large share of Cuba’s command economy.” (Christopher Sabatini, The New York Times, April 17th.)

However, the op-ed contributor is mistaken about the Head of State’s duties. Our constitution stipulates the following in Chapter 10, Article 93, referring to the “President of the Council of State and Head of Government’s Duties”, parts g), h) and i):

  1. g) to perform the Supreme Leadership of all armed institutions, and to determine their general organization.
  2. h) to preside over the National Defense Council.
  3. i) to declare the State of Emergency in the instances specified in this Constitution, reporting his decision as soon as the circumstances allow to the National Assembly of the People’s Power, or to the Council of State, if the former cannot convene, for the pertinent legal  (Gaceta Oficial, published on January 31st 2003, verbatim copy)

There’s a complex background. Ever since colonial times, there’s been a separation between what’s legal and what’s practical, which has been reinforced by repetitive autocratic governments in national politics, especially during the past 59 years with the Castro brothers.

The grand finale created by the victorious Comandante which made usurper Batista, “General” Head of the Cuban Army, flee, nourished by the budding Revolution’s social politics, reinforced how inconceivable it was in people’s minds to question the powers Fidel Castro took on, which were later accompanied by democratic institutions, at least in his written intentions and acting formalities.

However, the repetitive failure of Fidel’s adventure, without people losing their veneration for him strangely enough, now demands an intimate adherence to the ideas of a man who only exists because of his ideas. It would mean making the socialism expressed in speeches and laws, which mean real revolution, a reality. However, a social class has appeared which is immorally well-off in a material sense, they are an internal obstacle, the real counter-revolution.

Ideas rooted among such privileged people could be summarized like this: “We made the law, therefore they don’t apply to us, it’s for those below us.”

Respecting socialist law, without exception, with popular means to single out offenders and force them to pay for their faults, would mean the wrongly-called “communist” bureaucracy (including the “holy family” of leaders) giving up their scandalous privileges.

The government’s active opposition is calling for many things that coincide with the majority of the population, but they lack the influence they need to sway the masses as they are crushed by the government’s political propaganda, repressive bodies and a paralyzing fear that has been ingrained in them. The majority of Cubans prefer to risk their lives in Central American rainforests or in the stormy waters of the Florida Strait, before taking part in a peaceful anti-government protest.

In fact, time has come to their rescue, slowly but unrelentingly, becoming the only effective opponent to Castrismo. Raul Castro, less of a dreamer than his brother, unloading what is historically inevitable, has realized that it’s necessary to make a transition determined by a generational shift.

There’s a political saying that says that when changes are necessary, it’s better to take charge of them than let other people take the charge, because they will inevitably come about because of their nature.

The arrangement of the new State Council, its superior body, including the President, Head of State and Government and, I repeat, Head of the Armed Forces constitutionally-speaking, indicates that it isn’t about Raul still taking charge behind closed doors.

Deliberate ambiguity remains of a constitution whose feverish creators were able to propose the following articles from Chapter 1 of their Constitution to a people who were willing to say YES to their Supreme Leader:

ARTICLE 3. – In the Republic of Cuba, the sovereignty resides in the people, from whom all of the power of the State emanates. That power is exercised directly or through the Assemblies of the People’s  Power and other organs of the State derived from them, in the manner and according to the rules established by the Constitution and the laws. 

ARTICLE 5.- The Communist Party of Cuba, a follower of Martí’s ideas and of Marxism-Leninism, and the organized vanguard of the Cuban nation, is the highest leading force of society and of the state, which organizes and guides the common effort toward the goals of building socialism and progressing towards a communist society.” (Gaceta Oficial, ibidem)

Popular sovereignty without distinctions based on religious beliefs or the Communist Party’s empowered bureaucracy? This is a very serious matter because at 80-something years old, Death is looming on the horizon.

Vicente Morin Aguado:  [email protected]

One thought on “Is Miguel Diaz-Canel Cuba’s Commander in Chief?

  • Since when Vincente did the Castros comply with their own (Fidel’s) constitution? Note that at the May day parade, it was Raul who wore the four star General’s uniform. What rank does Diaz-Canel hold?
    To suggest that the political government controls the military in Cuba is to deny reality!

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