Cuba has a new leader and its not a Castro

Miguel Díaz-Canel has been named first secretary of the Cuban Communist Social gathering (PCC), probably the most highly effective function on the island. He would be the first particular person with out the identify Castro to run Cuba for the reason that 1959 revolution.

The transfer, introduced Monday, was broadly anticipated. It means the tall, silver-haired 60-year-old now holds Cuba’s two most vital positions, head of the occasion and president of the state, and buries rumours that he was a placeman, topic to extra highly effective forces.

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“I by no means believed that hearsay,” says former Cuban diplomat Carlos Alzugaray. “He was in cost, in all probability in direct session with Raúl Castro. However I feel the sign is that he’s accountable for every part now. He stands means over all people else.”

{An electrical} engineer by coaching, Díaz-Canel has for a lot of his life been a celebration functionary, albeit a fast-rising one. He was born a 12 months after the revolution, in Villa Clara, the province the place Che Guevara broke the need of Fulgencio Batista’s troops, bringing in regards to the revolution.

Individuals who knew him as a younger man stated he was a witty and personable occasion secretary in Villa Clara after which Holguin in japanese Cuba. He was additionally praised as a radical and engaged minister of upper training. However since rising to nationwide prominence, he has appeared to strike a distant and difficult-to-read determine.

Raúl Castro first appointed him vice chairman (of the council of ministers) in 2012, shortly after he himself had changed his brother Fidel as first secretary of the occasion. It was the primary actual indication that Díaz-Canel was being ready for energy.

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The make-up of the brand new Politburo that can information Cuba by the following years was additionally introduced Monday. Its members face big challenges because the state struggles with the coronavirus, United States sanctions, crumbling infrastructure and embedded forms.

“The primary problem shall be financial,” says Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Analysis Institute at Florida Worldwide College. “This isn’t actually rocket science. It’s recognition that Cuba is dealing with the worst financial disaster for the reason that early Nineties.”

Within the appointments to the Politburo, Raúl Castro has made good his promise to rejuvenate the management. Two veterans of the revolution, 90-year-old José Ramón Machado Ventura and 88-year-old Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, have retired with him.

Cuba has a new leader and it’s not a Castro

His promise to diversify the management seems much less spectacular: solely three of the 13-strong internal circle are ladies, and there don’t appear to be many new non-white faces.

Essentially the most important new member is Raúl Castro’s former son-in-law, Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja. He runs GAESA, the enterprise wing of the navy that controls a lot of Cuba’s economic system, constructing motels and working monetary providers, supermarkets and imports and exports.

López-Calleja is alleged to wield big affect. He travelled with Díaz-Canel to the United Nations and to Russia to satisfy Vladimir Putin. He was sanctioned by the US in September 2020.

One other new member is Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz, believed to be an in depth ally of López-Calleja. He has impressed Cubans as personable on Mesa Redonda, the spherical desk that’s broadcast to the nation and that has been an vital supply of reports in the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

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As Díaz-Canel assumed the function of first secretary on Monday, he instructed the closing assembly of the eighth Congress of the PCC that he would stay in shut contact with Raúl Castro, persevering with to debate all strategic selections.

This corresponds together with his insistence that he represents continuity slightly than any break with the previous. He tweets underneath the hashtag #SomosContinudad and the Congress itself came about underneath the banner “Unity and Continuity”.

Throughout his time within the barely lesser function of president, Díaz-Canel has confronted tough moments. There was a 2018 home aircraft crash that killed 112 and a twister strike in Havana that killed six and injured 195. He confronted criticism for not coming throughout as empathetic as Fidel, an admittedly excessive benchmark to satisfy.

For Habaneros now ready all day to purchase meat and medicines, in some circumstances sleeping on stairways to allow them to be a part of queues as quickly because the COVID-related nightly curfew lifts at 5am, continuity isn’t music to the ears.

“I feel there’s little hope and a number of tiredness and tedium,” says Rafa Escalona, director of the favored Cuban journal AM:PM. “The incorporation of a brand new era, regardless of having the highly effective – if double-edged – card of not being ‘Castro’, has already been squandered, remaining solely as mere ‘continuators’ of the worst of the inherited insurance policies.”

There are efforts to humanise the brand new chief. Simply earlier than the Congress, the journal Somos Jóvenes – We’re Younger – revealed an illustration providing “six belongings you don’t learn about Díaz-Canel.”

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He enjoys singing, apparently, even when he’s out of tune. He’s a fan of basic rock. He’s a tech geek. And he’s a grandfather who likes to spoil his grandchildren. Just one query was left unanswered: what’s going to he do now that he controls the levers of energy within the Cuban state?

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