Diaz-Canal sworn in to replace Castro as Cuban president

Remigio Civitarese
Aprile 19, 2018

Raul Castro, 86, remains head of the powerful Communist Party that oversees political and social activities.

Under the provisions of Cuba's Constitution, the President of the Council of State, who is elected for a five-year term of office, performs the functions of President and Prime Minister of the country.

The National Candidature Commission (NCC) nominated Diaz-Canel, first vice president of the Council of State, after the 57-year-old's name was proposed by the 604 National Assembly lawmakers to head the country.

State-run media and government-controlled Twitter accounts are promoting what is expected to be a historic handover of the presidency to the first non-Castro to lead the country in almost 60 years.

Revolutionary leader Fidel Castro ruled the nation before, for the last decade, his younger brother filled his shoes.

Most Cubans know their first vice president as an uncharismatic figure who until recently maintained a public profile so low it was virtually non-existent. People there describe him as a hard-working, modest-living technocrat dedicated to improving public services.

In the past year, the Cuba leadership has increasingly thrust Diaz-Canel, a former education minister, into the spotlight, making him the face of hurricane recovery efforts after Irma slammed the island last September, sending him on foreign trips and making him available for symbolic photo ops.

In a video of a Communist Party meeting that inexplicably leaked to the public a year ago, Mr Diaz-Canel expressed a series of orthodox positions that included sombrely pledging to shutter some independent media and labelling some European embassies as outposts of foreign subversion. Global observers and Cubans alike will be scrutinizing every move he makes after he officially takes office on Thursday. He has failed to fix the generally unproductive and highly subsidized state-run businesses that, along with a Soviet-model bureaucracy, employ three of every four Cubans. "I'd like to have more opportunity, to buy a vehicle, and have a few possessions". He was named the sole candidate for the presidency on Wednesday.

The party selected six vice presidents, only one of whom, Ramiro Valdes Menendez, 85, fought in the revolution.

The Florida Republican said in a Wednesday statement that Cuba continues to be oppressed by a single-party system.

For many Cubans, struggling with economic hardships and frustrated with the government's emphasis on continuity rather than change, the transition in leader is seen as unlikely to bring much beyond the symbolism of a new leader.

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