Is Raul Castro Preparing for a Handover to Diaz-Canel or Something Else?
/ Juan Juan Almeida
Juan Juan Almeida, 15 December 2016 — Thirteen months before his
anticipated retirement, General Raúl Castro is setting the agenda for an
individual who, even within the ranks of the Communist Party, provokes a
rare mix of opposing opinions and strong reactions.
Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez is today the person most likely to be
the next President of the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba and
curiously has already come up with a series of measures that should
guarantee an awkward form of popular approval.
I do not know if the Cuban government is planning an early transition of
power. I anticipated surprises but I don't know if they are preparing
for something else. There is, however, a rumor circulating in the halls
of power that a presidential agenda is already being prepared for
The new leader's work schedule includes repealing certain regulations
and creating others, such as reforming the country's financial system,
passing a new law on foreign investment, implementing labor reform
focused on drastically increasing the quality of the Cuban workforce,
generating more private sector employment and ostensibly improving
I asked a few acquaintances about the rumor and this was one response:
"It could be; he is a quiet guy. He keeps to himself and his strategy
for getting ahead amounts to keeping his mouth shut. But he is still a
good man," says one.
Another said, "I heard something but I don't believe he is genuine
reformist who suddenly appeared on the scene after lying low. He has no
leadership abilities. Díaz-Canel is an opportunist who has molded
himself to please Raul Castro."
But opinions vary. The measures being planned seem quite attractive but,
without severing ties to family members of the country's longtime
leaders, I doubt they will do much to improve the island's financial system.
A new investment law more appropriate to our times, one that offered
financial benefits, could incentivize serious investors. But it could
also be a magnet for scoundrels and astute money launderers.
Labor reform would increase productivity. Since Cuba has one of highest
proportions of elderly in Latin America, improving retirement benefits
for pensioners would also provide hope for the larger population. But
increasing their income and extending their coverage seems misleading to
me. After all, it is the unstoppable emigration of younger people and
the decline in the birthrate that has given rise to a progressively
aging population, a development which threatens the financial
sustainability of the pension system. Its resources are completely
inadequate to cover the retirement needs of any elderly Cuban.
Increasing the paltry benefits they receive today would be nothing more
than a semantic trick. Due to currency devaluation, done to reflect the
currency's true value, any increase would actually be a big decrease.
It is not enough to have an agenda that, on simple inspection, seems
designed to confuse the public, add a new element to US-Cuba relations,
play with people's uncertainties and destroy dissident proposals through
reforms that seem significant but have very little to offer.
It is difficult to predict but I feel that Díaz-Canel who now serves as
vice-president of the Council of State and Council of Ministers, lacks
the political will to become the magician who will transform today's
troubling reality into a more pluralistic, inclusive and productive Cuba.
Source: Is Raul Castro Preparing for a Handover to Diaz-Canel or
Something Else? / Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -