Earlier this year, Raul Castro announced that he would be stepping down as president to give way to elections including the selection of a new president by a national assembly, and the man who is expected to take his place, Miguel Diaz-Canel, seems to be preparing to take over the reins of the Cuban government.
Known to keep a low profile and not be very outspoken, Diaz-Canel seems to be stepping up and speaking out to become a national figure during the elections expected to end with his taking over from Raul Castro next year.
Diaz-Canel wants the voting to send a message to both Cuba and the world abroad. “What message? Unity. Conviction. A message that our people don’t bow down, not to a hurricane, and even less to external pressure and some people’s desire to see our system change,” said Diaz-Canel in an uncharacteristically wordy and defiant series of statements to foreign and state-run press.
The elections have been delayed for over a month while the country reeled and rebuilt after Hurricane Irma.
The revolutionary spirit of Cuba also got some attention from the potential leader. He reiterated that the Cubans are fulfilling a civic and revolutionary duty by going to the polls, and talked at length about the role of young people in the elections and the future of the country in general. The likely future president was optimistic about the attitudes of Cuban youths towards Fidel Castro’s system which has been in place since 1959. “When one sees young people gathering in solidarity in the name of the Cuban people, feeling so much for Fidel, I’m convinced that we’ll see the youth and the Cuban people out defending the revolution at the polls tomorrow,” Diaz-Canel said.
Voting took place this past Sunday, with millions of Cubans turning out for local elections where each district chose between two candidates. Due to a ban on political campaigning and platforms, the only information available to most voters were short biographies posted on the voting station walls. The winners of those elections will form a pool of thousands from which commissions will build Cuba’s provincial and national assemblies. At the end of it all, the national assembly will pick the new president. All signs as of now point to Miguel Diaz-Canel.
“This is a people that decided long ago its destiny, its sovereignty and independence,” Diaz-Canel said. Although very soon Cuba’s president will not be a Castro for the first time since 1959, all signs from Diaz-Canel and the new election system has indicated an unlikeliness to stray from the current path set forth by Raul Castro and his brother Fidel.
Although it is yet unclear to what extent Castro will be involved with politics going forward, he will allegedly remain as the head of the Communist Party in Cuba. Due to the dominance of the Communist Party in national politics, Castro’s sway over the affairs of the country could be as strong as it ever was.