Miguel Diaz-Canel Proposed as Cuba President Candidate

Hannah Rogers
April 20, 2018

Diaz-Canel has since past year been widely expected to take over from Castro, who made it clear his deputy was his personal choice.

Diaz-Canel should "increase the speed of change in Cuba while preserving the good things", said blogger Harold Cardenas, 32, adding that resistance from within the party to Castro's economic reforms had held the country back. But he is also a long-time Communist Party apparatchik who is not expected to push for sweeping political change.

Members of the Cuban National Assembly are in the midst of electing a new president to replace Raul Castro, who replaced his brother, Fidel, 10 years ago.

In 2009, Raul Castro, who had inherited power from his ailing brother Fidel three years earlier, tapped him to be higher education minister.

As a young provincial party chief, Diaz-Canel bucked party orthodoxy by backing an LGBT-friendly cultural centre, reportedly listening to rock music and sporting long hair. Cuba's next jefe will inherit these problems- and more. He often arrives at meetings carrying a tablet device.

He spent decades climbing the party ranks, becoming Mr Castro's right-hand man in 2013. Relations with the United States are strained anew under President Donald Trump and Cuba has few allies in the region.

That image has begun to change slightly this year as Diaz-Canel stepped into the moderate limelight offered by Cuba's Soviet-style state media.

"But there is no evidence in favour of him being a reformist and assuming he will abandon the one-party system or stop favouring the state sector over the non-state sector".

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Diaz-Canel will have a guiding hand on his shoulder, however. Cuba says its political processes as democratic.

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.

Castro will continue to serve as head of the Communist Party, and past year traced out a roadmap of party-approved "guidelines" to implement the political and economic reforms he has initiated.

He will become the island's first leader born after the 1959 revolution not named Castro.

At its two-day meeting, the 605-seat National Assembly is to vote in a new Council of State, which counts 31 members and whose head will automatically become president. When illness forced him to step aside in 2008, his brother Raul took the reigns.

Diaz-Canel smiled and joined the applause of the president.

He grew up in a modest one-storey house with a crumbling stucco facade in what locals say is one of the roughest neighborhoods of the provincial capital, Santa Clara.

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