If all goes as anticipated, in specifically a single year President Raul Castro will hand responsibility for Cuba's faltering economy and aging, disaffected population to a little-identified, 57-year-old Communist Party official.
It will be the 1st time because its founding in 1959 that the Cuban state has not been led by a member of the Castro loved ones. 1st Fidel Castro, then his younger brother Raul, wielded near-absolute power as head of the government and the ruling Cuban Communist Party. As founders of the modern day Cuban army, each brandished unquestioned authority as the nation's top military man.
The end of 85-year-old Raul Castro's second 5-year term will immediately push Cuba's autocratic, single-party program onto unknown ground.
Initially Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, a stocky, laconic engineer by education who began his career as a provincial bureaucrat, is anticipated to assume only one particular of Raul Castro's roles — the presidency. Castro plans to stay first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, a potentially far more potent position, till at least 2021. The Cuban military, meanwhile, became the nation's major economic power in the course of Raul Castro's decade as president and its major generals are expected to be less deferential to Diaz-Canel than they have been to the Castro brothers.
"We're getting into a new stage, one that demands adaptation. We're walking on new territory," retired diplomat and academic Carlos Alzugaray mentioned. "There is no cause to believe this transition can't be, extra or significantly less, optimistic."
The adjust at the major comes amid profound financial and diplomatic uncertainty. In 2016, Cuba saw its initially recession in 23 years Fidel Castro's death and the election of Donald Trump, who has promised to reverse President Barack Obama's opening with the island.
Ordinary Cubans are uncertain about life in a time of unprecedented alter, with a essentially unknown figure following almost six decades of the Castros' leadership.
"Whoever emerges is the identical to me, I don't care," mentioned Joan Rafael, a 40-year-old entertainer. "We have to see if this all alterations. If it modifications, I am fine with whoever it is."
Cuba calls its program a one of a kind form of democracy that enables citizens to freely express their views and influence government actions within the limits of a single-celebration system. Critics label it a a single-man dictatorship that represses any one who dares to protest.
The system in reality allows a limited variety of expression and action, like complaining to officials about trash collection or bureaucratic inefficiency, although prohibiting any type of political organization or expression outdoors strict boundaries defined by Castro and his inner circle.
Each and every 2 ? years, thousands of neighborhoods nationwide pick representatives to nearby boards overseeing municipal affairs. A handful of dissident candidates have been defeated and publicly denounced with the enable of block-level government committee charged with enforcing government mandates.
Every five years, a government body selects thousands of the nearby representatives to run for the National Assembly and those hand-picked candidates then go to a public vote. The roughly 500-member National Assembly then chooses the 30-member Council of State and the president.
Raul Castro started his second term on Feb. 24, 2013 with the declaration that he would not serve a third. He stated in Mexico two years ago that he wouldn't wait to turn into a terrific-grandfather prior to retiring "mainly because Cubans will get bored of me."
As Castro's retirement date approaches, Diaz-Canel has assumed an increasingly higher profile with visits to Cuba's most essential allies, such as Russia, China and Venezuela. Still, his speeches rarely differ from time-tested Communist dogma, and he regularly punts when questioned about his country's future, saying he's not certified to answer.
"I consider he could take on the challenges that Raul leaves him, that is, if he really takes on power," economist Omar Everleny Perez mentioned.
The low wattage of Diaz-Canel's current unsmiling and monotone appearances has shocked longtime observers who bear in mind him as a high-energy, charismatic provincial celebration official. Numerous speculate he is trying to keep away from the fate of many Fidel Castro deputies who constructed high public profiles, then had been sidelined without having explanation.
"He was 1 individual when he was a mid-level official and he's yet another one particular now. He's become totally closed-off and discreet," stated a European diplomat with lengthy practical experience in Cuba, speaking on situation of anonymity due to the fact he was not authorized to go over the matter with the press.
Diaz-Canel doesn't speak to the non-state media.
In current appearances on state television, Diaz-Canel has placed specific emphasis on the legacy of Fidel Castro, who died on Nov. 25, 2016.
"We can't speak about anything in education that doesn't bear the stamp of Fidel," the vice president mentioned in a December meeting with teachers and school administrators in eastern Cuba. "He's a model that we have to help every single day if we want it to last."
Born on April 20, 1960 in the central province of Santa Clara, Diaz-Canel performed two years of obligatory military service after getting an electrical engineering degree in 1982, then was a professor at the neighborhood Central University of Las Villas. An acquaintance from that time described him to The Linked Press as a Beatles fan who wore his hair extended, both trends that have been viewed poorly and occasionally punished by the Communist authorities at the time.
Diaz-Canel's sparse official biography says he joined the Young Communists' Union in 1987 and traveled to Nicaragua, exactly where Cuba supported Sandinista rebels against a U.S.-backed strongman. In 1994, Diaz-Canel was named top rated party official in Villa Clara, beginning his ascent onto the national stage. After serving in the eastern province of Holguin, he was named Minister of Greater Education in 2012 and, later that year, vice president, appearing frequently at Raul Castro's side but by no means assuming the spotlight.
"Next to Fidel and Raul, other people have appeared a little faded and gray," said Alzugaray, the former diplomat. "We have to see if once (the Castros) are gone, they take on brighter colors."
Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP
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