Recent remarks by Mariela Castro Espin suggest that the succession of Cuban leader Raúl Castro, who has publicly announced his retirement as president of the State and Ministers’ councils next year, may not be as clear as expected.
“Who do I want for the future of the country? I have no idea. In all [the candidates] I look at, I see virtues and defects, including in my father,” Mariela Castro said at the School of Communication in the University of Havana last Friday, The Miami Herald reports.
“The people have to decide. I do not have a preferred candidate but there are several people with qualities. I’m not going to say anything yet, I’m observing.”
The people of Cuba do not vote to elect the president; they instead vote for local representatives and deputies to the National Assembly. The representatives then vote to elect the president of the Council of Ministers and Council of States. For several decades, the Castros have been unanimously elected to both positions.
José Ramón Machado Ventura, the current second secretary of the Communist Party, was originally thought to be Castro’s eventual successor. But Castro dampened Machado Ventura’s presidential aspirations during a session of congress in 2016. Castro proposed term limits and suggested limiting the age of those who occupy high positions in government.
“It’s not a personal matter, I’m like them, I’m 85 years old, I’m one of the oldest, not as old as Machado,” Castro said about Machado, who is turning 88 in 2018, during the session.
Castro didn’t seem to be in any rush to implement his proposed limits—he said the measures would be implemented within the next few years—but it now looks like other figures within the regime, including members of the Castro family, could be successors instead of Machado Ventura.
These suspicions were confirmed when Miguel Díaz-Canel became first vice president over Machado Ventura. His promotion to the post is considered a calculated move to pave the way for his rise to the top of the Communist Part of Cuba, and eventually replacing Castro.
A member of the Castro family who also has potential of getting elected president is Mariela’s brother and head of the National Defense and Security Commission, Colonel Alejandro Castro Espin. He was never seriously considered a successor because he always kept a low profile, but he has recently been receiving a lot of international attention after it was revealed that he was the government’s official envoy in the secret negotiations that restored diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba in 2014.
Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez also made public comments about the election during a recent diplomatic tour of Europe. He said Castro has no constitutional obligation to step down because the Cuban constitution “has no restrictions on indefinite reelection.” When asked to comment on Castro’s succession, Rodríguez said “we will have to wait for the elections to know the results.”