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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: https://www.humanite.fr/cuba-diaz-c...


Diaz-Canel, the scion of the Cuban Revolution

Translated Monday 14 May 2018, by Daniel Horlor

The iconic leader Raul Castro has passed the baton to his vice president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, who was elected on Thursday by the Cuban National Assembly of People’s Power.
They arrived together to the generous applause of the National Assembly of People’s Power on March 11th. It has now been five years that Raul Castro and Miguel Diaz-Canel have represented the Presidency of Cuba as a duo. The iconic leader of the 1959 revolution had previously announced that he would not seek a third term in office, symbolically passing the torch to the new generation which, in reality, is already running the country. Vice President of the Pearl of the Antilles since 2013, the 57 year old electrical engineer had long been seen as the man to take over power in the Cuban Republic, and he was officially confirmed on Thursday as the next President by the Council of State and Council of Ministers. Five years ago, Raul Castro spoke of how he had not been elected to “destroy socialism”, even while Cuba undergoes deep and complex economic changes. Miguel Diaz-Canel continues to walk that path. Last month during the legislative elections, he said: “We have an ideological challenge: the struggle against hegemonic pseudo-cultural values that are sought to be imposed on us. We must confront it with our very essence, our convictions and values, from a liberating platform. On top of the ideological challenge, we also face an economic challenge as we seek to bring our socio-economic model up to date.”

He was quickly singled out for his qualities as a grass-roots activist

His election has made him the pride of Villa Clara, a province in the north of the island. Miguel Diaz-Canel was born on April 20th 1960, one year after the revolution. His early career was closely linked to Villa Clara - going to school, completing his military service and working as a lecturer at Las Villas University in 1985. His political trajectory was formed in the province as he became the head of the Young Communists Union in 1987. He was quickly singled out for his qualities as a grass-roots activist, namely his comfort with dialogue, and his listening ability. At the end of the 1980s, Miguel Diaz-Canel left for Nicaragua on an international solidarity mission, despite the context of the suffocating American embargo on the Sandinista revolution and the counter insurgency by the Contra mercenaries. On his return, Cuba was in the midst of the “special period” - the fall of the Soviet Union; the socialist Eastern Bloc countries were pushing Cuba to the edge of the precipice, and its economy was drained by the almost total disappearance of trading partners.

Man of the streets rather than the office

Miguel Diaz-Canel became a member of the Communist Party Central Committee in 1991, and two years later was elected governor of Villa Clara province. The Beatles fan prowled the towns, villages and fields in shorts. His modesty and simplicity gained him the sympathy of the population who had nothing. He was uncompromising towards the black market, even while shortages disrupted the daily lives of his fellow Cubans. Man of the streets rather than the office, he had a divisive style, fighting tooth and nail against the closure of El Mejunje, a local club favoured by the LGBT community. The club’s founder, Ramon Silverio, told BBC Mundo that Diaz-Canel brought his children from his first marriage to the club when they would put on activities for young people.

While without question less charismatic than some other leaders of his generation, Miguel Diaz-Canel is still recognised for his incredible work ethic, and political and intellectual rigour. His impressive stature helped him impose himself at the heart of the Central Committee. In 2003, while governing Holguin province, Raul Castro asked him personally to attend the political office of a Communist Training School. The two men like each other - a confidence which prevails to this day. His appointment as Minister of Higher Education allowed him to meet regularly with student leaders, and shortly thereafter he was nominated to the Council of State. In 2013, he became Vice President, as Raul Castro applauded his “ideological strength”.

Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, Miguel Diaz-Canel started by praising the “confidence of the Cuban people”, and dedicated his “first thought to the historic generation” of the revolution. He continued: “The outside world looks at us with more questions than certainties… we must be more creative in allowing our truths to come out”, acknowledging the huge challenges which his succession must face.

Constitution of the Assembly and Presidency

In addition to the election of Miguel Diaz-Canel with 603 votes out of a possible 604, the Assembly members chose Salvador Antonio Valdes Mesa as First Vice President. He was Minister of Labour and Social Security from 1995 to 1999, and Secretary General of the Cuban Trade Union Federation between 2006 and 2013. The other vice presidents of the 31 member Council of State are: Ramiro Valdes Menendez, Roberto Tomas Morales Ojeda, Gladys Maria Bejerano Portela, Inés Maria Chapman and Beatriz Johnson Urrutia. On Wednesday, Esteban Lazo Hernandez was re-elected President of the National Assembly of People’s Power (NAPP). He will be assisted by two women, Ana Maria Mari Machado and Miriam Brito Sarroca, elected to the posts of vice president and secretary of the NAPP respectively.

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