Last week, Raul Castro made the surprising announcement that Cuba would get a new President. The totalitarian dictator of the tiny impoverished island nation names a man outside the family.
Castro’s move came as a surprise to many. Foreign policy experts suspected that Raul would crown one of his children the next king or queen of Cuba.
However, it seems the elder Castro has passed over his LGBTQ-friendly daughter Mariela, or his one-eyed Obama-loving son Alejandro. Instead Raul Castro has chosen a 57-year old bureaucrat named Miguel Diaz-Canel to be his successor.
Is this a classic case of, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” ?
It may be more appropriate to say that Cuba’s National Assembly has chosen Diaz-Canel – but of course we all know who pulls the strings on the isle of Cuba. It’s also crucial to point out that although Raul Castro is stepping down from his role as “El Presidente” He will remain the leader of Cuba’s Communist Party, a position which his (thankfully) dead brother Fidel once held himself.
As leader of the Party in Cuba, Fidel led the island for many years from behind the scenes even as other toadying henchmen filled the role of President. It will be interesting to see whether Raul, the younger and more cautious of the Castro brothers, will operate the same way.
Miguel Diaz-Canel, for his part, seems likely to be somewhat unimportant in Cuban politics of the future. The leftist American media may view him with optimism given their feverish love for anyone who has spent their whole life working for a Socialist government. But in reality, Diaz-Canel is most likely only going to be a figurehead, a puppet to entertain the world while Raul Castro’s children gain age and governing experience.
Diaz-Canel’s supposed leadership of Cuba will shield the younger Castros, Mariela and Alejandro, from public scrutiny. But they and their father will continue to rule from behind the scenes, just as Fidel did before them. And when the time is right, perhaps after Raul himself has died, the Castro heirs will surely replace poor Diaz-Canel, as soon as he has outlived his usefulness to them.
This cannot come as a surprise to anyone, because Miguel Diaz-Canel has made a career out of keeping his head down long enough to avoid having the Castros remove it. This is the line any would-be politician in Cuba must walk: competent enough to be trusted with authority, but not competent enough to be feared by superiors. It is the way of every Communist system of government.
In systems where only mediocrity is rewarded, only mediocre leaders will emerge. Despite the Obama government’s overtures to the dictatorial regime of Cuba, nothing has changed there. And nothing will change, until the country is free of the Castros forever. Change, when it comes at all, is slow, and always managed carefully as to benefit the Castro family.
For more than 60 years, the Castros have treated the nation of Cuba as their own personal playground. The people suffer under repressive policies while the Castros and their loyal goons enrich themselves, all in the name of equality and “Communist virtue.” And perhaps Cuba has achieved equality: indeed, it seems everyone in Cuba is equally un-happy, everyone except the Castros and their thuggish enforcers.
The rise of a new political pawn in the form of Miguel Diaz-Canel will mean very little for the people of Cuba. As long as there are Castros pulling the strings, or waiting in the wings to assume power when they are old