A new Cuba?

On July 31, 2006, due to medical reasons, Fidel Castro transferred his presidential powers to his brother, Raúl.  Fidel died at the age of 90 on November 25, 2016 in Havana. 

On February 24, 2013, Raúl was re-elected president, but shortly thereafter, he announced that his second term would be his final term and that he would not seek re-election in 2018.

On December 21, 2017, he announced on state television that he would step down as Cuban president on April 19, 2018, after his successor was elected by the National Assembly following parliamentary elections.

However, the 86-year-old Raúl Castro retains his powerful position of first secretary of the Communist Party and his seat representing the Santiago de Cuba municipality in the National Assembly.

On April 18, 2018, Miguel Díaz Canel was selected as the only candidate to succeed Castro as president. 

He was confirmed by a vote of the National Assembly on April 19, 2018.  Díaz Canel is a party technocrat, little known to the public, born after the 1959 Cuban Revolution and not a member of the Castro family.

He was appointed minister of higher education in May 2009, and on March 22, 2012, he became vice president of the Council of Ministers (deputy prime minister).  In 2013, he became first vice president of Cuba, acting as a deputy to Raúl Castro.

Díaz Canel is expected to pursue the cautious path to reform of Raúl's economic policies, while preserving the country's social structure.  Undoubtedly, he will soon face a series of challenges.

First, the Stalinist-style centrally planned economy of the last six decades that has turned Cuba into a third-world country, still looking the way it did the '50s.  Second, the disenfranchised population, especially the young generation, is demanding change.  And third, there are President Trump's unorthodox methods of getting deals done on his own terms.

Cuba signaled a timid path to reform in 2014, when Castro and Barack Obama reached an agreement to renew diplomatic ties and improve relations.  This détente led to an increase in U.S. visits and investment in Cuba.

However, when President Trump assumed office in January 2017, he reversed course, neutralizing most of Cuba's advantages, putting a stop to doing business with some Cuban state-run companies, and tightening rules for U.S. visitors.  The sonic attacks leading to mystery illnesses among U.S. diplomats in Havana also undermined trust.

Díaz Canel emphasized in his first speech as president the need to modernize the country's economy and that the new period would be characterized by "modernization of the economic and social model," without getting into many details. 

If he wants to cut a deal with his powerful neighbor to the north, Díaz Canel should make the next move now.  He should look no farther than his brothers-in-ideology, China's President Xi Jinping and North Korea's "Little Rocket Man" Kim Jong-un.

Tiberiu Dianu has published several books and a host of articles in law, politics, and post-communist societies.  He currently lives and works in Washington, D.C. and can be followed on MEDIUM

On July 31, 2006, due to medical reasons, Fidel Castro transferred his presidential powers to his brother, Raúl.  Fidel died at the age of 90 on November 25, 2016 in Havana. 

On February 24, 2013, Raúl was re-elected president, but shortly thereafter, he announced that his second term would be his final term and that he would not seek re-election in 2018.

On December 21, 2017, he announced on state television that he would step down as Cuban president on April 19, 2018, after his successor was elected by the National Assembly following parliamentary elections.

However, the 86-year-old Raúl Castro retains his powerful position of first secretary of the Communist Party and his seat representing the Santiago de Cuba municipality in the National Assembly.

On April 18, 2018, Miguel Díaz Canel was selected as the only candidate to succeed Castro as president. 

He was confirmed by a vote of the National Assembly on April 19, 2018.  Díaz Canel is a party technocrat, little known to the public, born after the 1959 Cuban Revolution and not a member of the Castro family.

He was appointed minister of higher education in May 2009, and on March 22, 2012, he became vice president of the Council of Ministers (deputy prime minister).  In 2013, he became first vice president of Cuba, acting as a deputy to Raúl Castro.

Díaz Canel is expected to pursue the cautious path to reform of Raúl's economic policies, while preserving the country's social structure.  Undoubtedly, he will soon face a series of challenges.

First, the Stalinist-style centrally planned economy of the last six decades that has turned Cuba into a third-world country, still looking the way it did the '50s.  Second, the disenfranchised population, especially the young generation, is demanding change.  And third, there are President Trump's unorthodox methods of getting deals done on his own terms.

Cuba signaled a timid path to reform in 2014, when Castro and Barack Obama reached an agreement to renew diplomatic ties and improve relations.  This détente led to an increase in U.S. visits and investment in Cuba.

However, when President Trump assumed office in January 2017, he reversed course, neutralizing most of Cuba's advantages, putting a stop to doing business with some Cuban state-run companies, and tightening rules for U.S. visitors.  The sonic attacks leading to mystery illnesses among U.S. diplomats in Havana also undermined trust.

Díaz Canel emphasized in his first speech as president the need to modernize the country's economy and that the new period would be characterized by "modernization of the economic and social model," without getting into many details. 

If he wants to cut a deal with his powerful neighbor to the north, Díaz Canel should make the next move now.  He should look no farther than his brothers-in-ideology, China's President Xi Jinping and North Korea's "Little Rocket Man" Kim Jong-un.

Tiberiu Dianu has published several books and a host of articles in law, politics, and post-communist societies.  He currently lives and works in Washington, D.C. and can be followed on MEDIUM