For the first time in decades, Cuba’s president is not a member of the Castro family.
While some see the installation of Raul Castro’s handpicked replacement as a sign the Communist nation might experience some reforms or moderation, others analysts are less hopeful.
Castro, 86, stepped down upon a largely ceremonial National Assembly vote Thursday confirming the nomination of 57-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel.
The new president had served most recently as a vice president under Castro. With a reputation among some as a moderate figure who has heretofore rarely made only sporadic public statements, analysts like the University of Texas at Rio Grande’s Arturo Lopez-Levy think he could be a less authoritarian ruler.
“There is a tradition in Cuba of strong men at the head of the State,” he said, noting that Diaz-Canel “seems weaker” by comparison.
Unlike Raul Castro and his brother, Fidel, who ruled for decades before him, the new president is restricted by his predecessor’s proclamation to serving a maximum of two five-year terms, as reported by NBC News.
“He has no more power than what he has been given,” Lopez-Levy said.
Nevertheless, some point to evidence including a leaked video from a meeting with Communist Party leaders in which Diaz-Canel expressed virulently anti-American views and brutal positions against dissidents.
He has also publicly endorsed the Communist platform in detail during a speech approved by party officials.
Among the limited economic and social reforms he has endorsed are increased access to the internet and decreased regulation on the press.
With his embrace of cultural cues — like blue jeans and the Beatles — popular in freer nations, Diaz-Canel has convinced supporters that his presidency could signal a shift from the hard-line rule of his predecessors.
President Donald Trump offered a broad message of support to the Cuban people when asked about the change in Cuban leadership, according to CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta.
Trump when asked about Cuba’s new president Miguel Diaz-Canel: “We love Cuba. We're going to take care of Cuba. We're going to take care of it."
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) April 19, 2018
“We love Cuba,” Trump said. “We’re going to take care of Cuba. We’re going to take care of it.”
Diaz-Canel’s roots within the nation’s ruling party date back nearly a quarter of a century, when he was appointed to the position of Villa Clara’s provincial secretary.
Less than a decade later, his political career received a substantial boost when he became a member of the influential Political Bureau, often seen as a catapult to higher office.
Raul Castro provided that opportunity in 2009, three years after he took over for his brother, who was in failing health. The president selected Diaz-Canel to be Cuba’s minster of higher education, a position that led to further advancement within the regime.
In rapid succession, he became a vice president in the Council of Ministers in 2012 and was added to the Council of State the following year.
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