HAVANA, Cuba – Cuba’s Parliament is certain to pick a 57-year-old electrical engineer to guide the Caribbean country into a new era following the decision of 86-year-old Raúl Castro, to bring to an end the Castro’s family’s decades-long rule of the island.
In 2006, Raul Castro had taken over leadership of the country from his brother, Fidel, who died in November 2016.
The National Assembly, the country’s legislative body, will vote on the nomination of Miguel Díaz-Canel on Thursday even as political observers say Castro will remain in a powerful position staying on as the head of the Communist Party until its next congress in 2021.
In 2013, Diaz-Canel was regarded as Castro’s right-hand man and for the past five years, he has been groomed for the presidency and the handover of power.
He studied electrical engineering and began his political career in his early 20s as a member of the Young Communist League in Santa Clara.
While teaching engineering at the local university, he worked his way up the ranks of the Young Communist League, becoming its second secretary at the age of 33.
But he faces a challenging period in office. Cuba’s economy is weak, and he needs to implement policies to reinvigorate the economy by pushing ahead with the controversial economic reform programme launched by his predecessor. Relations with United States and President Donald Trump have deteriorated.
In June 2017, Trump declared he was “cancelling” some Obama-era Cuba political reforms and re-tightening parts of the decade’s economic embargo that Washington imposed soon after Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista government in 1959. – CMC