For the first time since 1959, the communist country of Cuba is no longer ruled under the Castro name. On April 18, 2018, Raul Castro’s unopposed successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel, was elected as the new leader in a 603-1 vote.
Little is known about the 57-year-old bureaucrat other than Raul’s evident support. Born a year after Fidel Castro was sworn into power, Miguel Diaz-Canel served as Communist Party official for the hometown of the Castro brothers. Up until recently, his values were seemingly unbeknownst to the public, as he kept a low profile and rarely strayed from the script when addressing the public. However, while the previous presidents are known for their rigid hold on Cuba, citizens are looking towards Diaz-Canel in search for a light at the end of the tunnel. While addressing the National Assembly in Havana, the new president laid out his plans on reviving the country’s stagnant economy.
“The people have given this assembly the mandate to provide continuity to the Cuban Revolution during a crucial, historic moment that will be defined by all that we achieve in the advance of the modernization of our social and economic model.”
Although he does not want to revert to capitalism, Miguel Diaz-Canel wants to grow private companies and enterprises while preserving state sectors such as energy and medical services. All eyes are on him, as Cuba’s economy has not done particularly well in the past. According to Brookings, the average Cuban brings home around $20 a month, and less than five percent have access to the Internet. Although it is clearly very early on in his presidency, Diaz-Canel already has a lot on his plate.
Fortunately for the incoming president, Raul Castro has already made great strides in bettering the reclusive nation. By reopening embassies and fixing ties with the US, the Cold War-frozen country has begun to relax it’s laws. Although things are looking up, this isn’t to say that their international problems have been solved. Though Cuba has certainly developed better relations with America, the Castro and Trump administration don’t seem to be on the best terms.
In an address to the country, Castro joked about Mike Pence leaving the Summit of the Americas because he “couldn’t take it”, to which the vice president responded in a strongly worded tweet.
Hey Raul – looks like you’re the one leaving… and we’re here standing with the Cuban people. And we’re not going anywhere until Cuba has free & fair elections, political prisoners are released & the people of Cuba are finally free! #CubaLibre https://t.co/4l8ZQIv7fN
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) April 19, 2018
With tensions lowering but evidently still there, it begs the question: how will Miguel Diaz-Canel affect the current relations with other countries? It’s unlikely that the government’s hold on the island will loosen or tighten any time soon. As long as the Castro name is still alive, Diaz-Canel plans on following in his predecessor’s footsteps. “Raul Castro, as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, will lead the decisions of greatest transcendence for the present and the future of this country,” says Diaz-Canel.
The newest president could certainly be a fresh change from the authoritarian values of the past presidents, but it seems that things will likely continue on the same path. Though the future of Cuba isn’t entirely clear, the betterment of the country seems to be in the best interest of the general public.