Rob Sequin | Havana Journal
Today, most citizens in Cuba, Cuban Americans and Cuba watchers around the world are shocked and/or thrilled to learn that not only has President Raul Castro announced his future retirement but that he has selected a 52 year old, non-Castro to be his First Vice President. I tend to doubt anyone is disappointed by hearing this news.
Miguel Dias Canel is now first Vice President of Cuba and “one heartbeat” away from being the President of Cuba.
He was (s)elected by unanimous vote of 612 delegates as was the entire list of other “candidates”. Many may remain skeptical about the future of leadership in Cuba but this (s)election was done for all of Cuba and all the world to see.
So, who is Miguel Diaz Canel?
Cuba’s Diaz-Canel Rose Gradually to No. 2 Post By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ Associated Press
The man tapped as the likely heir-apparent to Raul Castro is largely unknown off the island, but his rise to the country’s No. 2 job was anything but meteoric.
Miguel Diaz-Canel has spent 30 years gradually paying his dues behind the scenes, earning a reputation as a Communist Party loyalist and rising through the ranks to a succession of ever-higher posts.
“He is not an upstart or improvised,” President Raul Castro said Sunday in a speech to lawmakers in which he laid out the reasons for his choice. In the past, Castro has praised Diaz-Canel’s “solid ideological firmness.” Tall, dapper and carefully groomed with a 52-year-old’s salt-and-pepper hair, Diaz-Canel presents a serious public face before TV cameras, even as some people who know him describe him as a sharp-minded jokester who can be surprisingly relaxed in private.
“He’s a much more flexible type than he seems, open-minded and above all intelligent,” one official who has known Diaz-Canel since the 1980s told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, lacking the authorization to discuss the man with foreign media.
A heartbeat from the Cuban presidency? by Tracey Eaton
The Cuban parliament on Sunday named Raúl Castro to another five-year term and chose former education minister Miguel Díaz-Canel as his top deputy. Castro, 81, said he wouldn’t seek another term in 2018, making it likely that someone outside the Castro family would lead the country for the first time since 1959. Díaz-Canel, 52, was appointed a vice president of the Council of Ministers in March. According to his biography:
1982 - He graduated as an electrical engineer.
1985 - He joined Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces.
April 1985 - He began teaching at the Central University of Las Villas.
1987 - He began working at the Union of Young Communists while continuing to teach, then went on take part in an internationalist mission to Nicaragua.
1989 - He continued working at the Union of Young Communists.
1993 - He was elected first secretary of the Provincial Committee in Villa Clara.
2003 - He was elected to the same position in Holguín province. He was named to the Communist Party’s political bureau that same year. Raúl Castro praised his “ideological firmness.”
May 2009 - He was appointed minister of higher education.
March 2012 - He was named vice president of the Council of Ministers.
Photo above taken by Tracey Eaton. Click on photo to see more photos by Tracey Eaton of Diaz Canel.
Havana Journal publisher notes: From left to right in the photo: Former First Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura, President Raul Castro, Second Vice President Ramiro Valdez, newly elected President of Parliment Esteban Lazo, military general unknown to me, First Vice President Miguel Diaz Canel.
Castro’s 2018 retirement looms for Cuba, Miami By PETER ORSI Associated Press
It’s been more than 54 years since someone not named “Castro” led Cuba, and it will likely be five more. But now islanders and exiles alike have finally been given a date for when the sun will set on brothers Fidel and Raul’s longtime rule: 2018.
In accepting a new presidential term on Sunday, the 81-year-old Raul Castro announced that it would be his last. And for the first time, he tapped a rising young star, Miguel Diaz-Canel, to be his top lieutenant and possible successor. As the new first vice president of the ruling Council of State, the 52-year-old Diaz-Canel is now a heartbeat from the presidency and has risen higher than any other Cuban official who didn’t directly participate in the heady days of the 1959 revolution.
This past week was uncommonly full of Cuba news.
At the top of the list has to be this weekend’s selection of a new First Vice President in Cuba, Manuel Diaz Canel, age 52, the first person to occupy that post that did not fight in the Revolution. The outgoing First Vice President apparently stepped aside to make room for the next generation of Cuban leaders. Diaz Canel is presumed to be Raul Castro’s successor, a prospect made all the more clear by Raul Castro’s reiteration that this will indeed be his final term in office, as he promised in 2008 when he began his first full term as president. Castro also endorsed term (and age!) limits for top government officials, and insisted that he will press ahead with his reform agenda. Two of the country’s five vice presidents are now women, and just one leader of the Revolution, Ramiro Valdes, remains.
Esteban Lazo - President of the National Assembly
Esteban Lazo, one of the strong men of the Communist Party and one of the black politicians who have reached the highest in the levels of power in Cuba, today took almost 69 years to achieve this leadership role of the National Assembly which has been held for 20 years by Ricardo Alarcon. Lazo, a vice president of the State Council, was elected by the Assembly (unicameral parliament) for a period of five years which will run until 2018.
——————————Havana Journal Comments——————————
1. Hard liner Ramiro Valdez is the second Vice President behind Diaz Canel. These men are two VERY different people. I don’t know if they interact much but if I had to guess who would win a power struggle, my bet would be on Valdez… and that’s not a good thing. As you see in the photo above, Valdez is sitting closer to Raul. Will this seating arrangement now change? What does Valdez think about Diaz Canel?
2. When will Raul retire? When he wants to retire and that could mean AFTER 2018. First, term limits are even law yet in Cuba and second, Raul can get the law changed if he wants to continue on past 2018.
3. The (s)election of Diaz Canel and Lazo is good news. I personally welcome a smooth transition, sooner rather than later.