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Miguel Diaz-Canel Named President Of Cuba


As comes as no surprise to anyone, Miguel Diaz-Canel was unanimously named the new president of Cuba today after president Raul Castro stepped down. He was the only candidate of the only party so he kind of had to be elected. You’ll recall that Raul took over for his brother Fidel in 2010 and before that Fidel had been in power since 1959. Diaz-Canel is considered by some to be a more moderate influence than the hardline Castros, though he does take a strong stance on preserving the revolution’s socialist ideals and crushing dissent. But what else would you expect from the Castro’s hand picked successor? Still, for the first time in 60 years a non-Castro non-revolutionary generation person is in charge. Diaz-Canel at 57 is a youngster when it comes to Cuban politics but he’s been around for a looooong time. He helped Cuba rise out of the ‘special period’ after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 90’s and has served as first vice-president for years.

This is a weird feeling for my family and I. My grandparents were active supporters of Castro during the revolution and I had an uncle that died fighting for Fidel Castro. Later, my family turned against him and my grandfather was later detained during the Bay of Pigs invasion. My family left Cuba in 1969 and we made our home in America. For me, and the generations of Cuban-Americans that came after, the Castro brothers were like immortal boogiemen, the incarnation of evil. But they weren’t immortal, after all. Fidel died as all people do and Raul is an old old man. This is a day we always knew would come but we never knew what would happen when it did. I was assured as a kid that the day Fidel died or retired that no one would follow Raul. That turned out not to be the case. Raul had the revolutionary credentials and the name and was willing to reform just enough to release some of the built up pressure for change.

The question now becomes if a man who was not there in the glory days of the revolution fighting against Batista’s forces has what it takes to hold a country together that’s suffering under a crushing recession and skyrocketing inflation. If Diaz-Canel is smart he will take a cue from Vietnam and create a hybrid economy of socialism and capitalism or else he may not be able to persevere. He isn’t Fidel and Raul, after all.

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