Miguel Díaz-Canel unopposed in bid to replace Cuba’s Castro

Cuban Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel likely will be Cuba's next president after the country's election commission submitted only his name as a candidate. Photo by Ernesto Mastrascusa/EPA-EFE

April 18 (UPI) — Cuba’s election commission on Wednesday nominated Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel as the only candidate to succeed Raúl Castro as the island nation’s next president.

The 605 newly sworn-in deputies of the National Assembly were expected to vote on Castro’s replacement Wednesday from a list of names — in this case, one name — proposed by the government-appointed Commission of National Candidacies. The result of the vote wasn’t expected to be revealed until Thursday.

Once finalized, Díaz-Canel will be the first person outside the Castro family to lead Cuba in more than four decades, when the Constitution was rewritten and Fidel Castro became leader. Fidel Castro’s younger brother, Raúl, took over temporarily in 2006 when the elder became sick. Raúl Castro served two five-year terms after that.

Díaz-Canel has promised to stick close to the Communist Party ideals espoused by his predecessors.

“I believe in continuity,” he told reporters recently. “I think there always will be continuity.”

“Cuba will keep being Cuba, no one can change it,” 24-year-old Elián González told CNN.

As a 5-year-old, González was at the center of a court battle between relatives in Miami and his father, who sought to have him returned to Cuba. He has advocated for the 59-year-old revolution in the country and some believe he may become a leader.

“Cuba won’t change if another administration comes, if another president comes,” González said of the importance of continuity.

But some Cubans believe continuity means little positive change will happen under Díaz-Canel’s leadership, with continued restraints on the private sector and little political diversity.

“Those who know the reality of Communist Cuba know that this so-called transfer of power from one tyrant to another is no watershed moment. It is more smoke and mirrors from the dictatorship,” said U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.


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