Cuba will name a new president within the next two weeks, meaning the country will no longer have a Castro as its leader for the first time in 60 long years.
Miguel Diaz-Canel, the country's current vice president is expected to be Raul Castro’s successor. However, his ascension to the presidency is not guaranteed.
Back in January, a bronze replica of the famous statue of José Martí that was in New York’s Central Park for over half of the century was inaugurated in Old Havana. Martí was a Cuban national hero and often referred to as “Apostle of the Cuban Revolution.”
“As a set-piece of propaganda, the unveiling of the bronze statue of José Martí that evoked Cuba’s greatest independence hero at the moment of his death was a flop. But as a mournful scene from the closing act of the Castro brothers’ 60-year rule, the official event that took place outside Havana’s Museum of the Revolution this January spoke volumes,” writes the Financial Times. “Just as important for Cuba’s leadership, though, the monument was an expression of revolutionary purpose extending from Martí’s death 123 years ago up to this day. That sense of continuity is especially important to Cuba’s Communist party as it faces a delicate and perhaps even uniquely vulnerable moment this year.”
But, the celebrated event to reveal the statue ultimately backfired for Castro.
“Now, instead of conveying continuity, the monument seemed to underline Cuba’s multiple challenges and shortcomings. Even the inscription to Martí’s life chiseled into the black marble plinth was marred by sloppy but indelible spelling mistakes. The Spanish word for city was misspelt “cuidad”, while “nacío”, supposedly “he was born”, does not exist at all,” writes the Financial Times.
Raul Castro became Cuba president in 2008 and come April 19, six decades of Castro rule finally comes to an end.
Raul Castro was the brother of the former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who established the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere. Raul will remain the leader of the Communist Party of Cuba until 2021.
In 2013, Raul Castro announced that it would be his last five-year term as president, but earlier in the year his term was extended by about two months due to Hurricane Irma’s devastating hit to the country.
While Former President Barack Obama was warming up to Cuba, President Donald Trump has been more cautious, as he should be with any Communist country.
“Staffing levels at the US embassy have since shrunk to levels not seen since 1977. Cuba’s economy, hit by Hurricane Irma and a near-halving of aid from Venezuela, remains on the rocks. Despite reforms launched by Mr. Castro 10 years ago when he became president, which have led to the creation of 580,000 privately self-employed businesses, the economy is a third smaller than it was in 1985, according to a study led by Pavel Vidal, a Cuban economist teaching at Javeriana University in Colombia. No one expects abrupt change when Mr. Castro and other gerontocratic members of the so-called historic generation who led the 1959 revolution move on,” writes the Financial Times.
Trump’s recent moves to roll back Obama’s Cuba policies were done to halt U.S. dollars from funding Communism.
"We have strengthened our Cuba policies to channel economic activity away from the Cuban military and to encourage the government to move toward greater political and economic freedom for the Cuban people," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
With a new leader in Cuba though, this could still be the start of a new era.
"This is not a transition to democracy, but this is enormous," said Pedro Freyre, an attorney with the Akerman law firm to USA Today. "As our president would say, 'It's huge.' "
If Díaz-Canel is selected it will be a symbolic change for the regime, but will he really be much different?
“Experts describe him (Díaz-Canel) as a true believer in the Marxist-Leninist ideology that formed the basis of Fidel Castro's government. He supported the marginal changes implemented during the 12 years of Raúl Castro's rule, such as allowing Cubans to buy and sell property for the first time, work privately outside the state-run economy and get slightly expanded access to computers, cellphones and the Internet,” writes USA Today.
"Imperialism can never be trusted, not even a tiny bit, never,” said Díaz-Canel.
Author’s note: Trump supports the Miami Cubans, but not communism. A new leader may be more open to negotiations and better relations with the U.S. Time will only tell though.