Miguel Díaz-Canel was elected by the National Assembly as president of the country in replacement of Raúl Castro, with the vote of the 604 deputies, in a unanimous voting. It was almost a protocol-vote: he was the only one running, supported by the Cuban Communist Party, base of the real power in the country.
By Alejandro Iturbe.
Since the guerrilla movement led by Fidel Castro seized the power, on January 1st, 1959, Manuel Urrutia occupied the charge for six months, and then Osvaldo Dorticos, until 1976. Since then, the Castro were always presidents of Cuba: Fidel first, and then his brother Raúl.
Who is Miguel Díaz-Canel, unknown person nationally and internationally?
He is 57, he is an electronic engineer and the father of two sons (first marriage). He developed his political career as a cadre of the Communist Party. He was the main leader of the youth in his birth-town, Villa Clara, and then he became Secretary Prime of the provincial PC, in 1994.
In 2003, he was named for the same position in the province of Hologuín, and he was promoted to be part of the National Political Bureau, maximum leadership. In 2009, he moved to La Habana to occupy the seat of Minister of Superior Education, and in 2013 the National Assembly made him vice-president.
Díaz-Canel belongs to a generation of cadres born after the revolution, some of which are being prepared, for many years (even decades) to concretize the necessary, inevitable generational change after the aging and death of those who were part of the revolution.
Other possible candidates were left behind, like the former minister of Foreign Affairs, Roberto Robaina, as well as Felipe Pérez Roque and Carlos Lage, discarded by Fidel himself under the accusation of “unloyalty” or “being seduced by power.” Analysts consider that Díaz-Canel was elected, in the end, by the combination between his absolute loyalty to the Castro and the low profile shown so far.
The voice is that the real power in Díaz-Canel’s hands, even if not completely formal, is highly restricted. Raúl Castro holds the leadership of the PC (at least until 2021) and also a hegemonic influence in the Army, another base institution of the Castrista regime. Besides, his son, Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín, 52, is the president of the Committee for the Defense of the National Security (Comisión de Defensa de Seguridad Nacional,) body that centralizes the intelligence.
What transition are we talking about?
Most Western media define the context of the Cuban situation in which Díaz-Canel takes office as a “transition” between a “socialist” economy and a capitalist one. A transformation process that, so far, has been taken ahead slowly and carefully (a vision shared by most of the world left, with nuances). In this view from the press and capitalist analysts, Díaz-Canel will have to figure out how to solve the contradiction between “modernization” (capitalism) and “the revolution achievements”. Another contradiction would be the one between “free development” (capitalist) of the economy, and the closed regime built by the Castro brothers.
We do not agree with this view. As we pointed in several articles published in this site and other publications, we consider that capitalism was restored in Cuba by the Castro, since the 90s. A process from which several European imperialist countries took advantage (especially Spain), as well as Canada, growing influence in the economy of the island.
In this frame, the Castro family and members of the apparatus closest to them became a minor bourgeoisie, associated with these businesses and developing new ones. For instance, the free sell of most shares of the historical rum factory and brand Havan Club to the French company Pernod Ricard, for 50 million dollars.
Also, the Castro family owns numerous mansions in the country, including the private island Cayo Piedra, to which they access through a luxurious yacht. These are public known numbers and info, but the global fortune of the Castro family is much bigger, distributed and “hidden” all over the island (possibly, also outside the country).
These benefits from their participation in businesses extend to the high command of the regime apparatus and other lower degrees, especially regarding the control that the Army has on the important nucleus of State companies, which benefits the military cadres. For example, the company Cimex that administrates constructions, real estate properties and retail chains; and Medicuba, commercializing medicines and medical services.
The Cuban Workers’ State does no longer exist. As a result of the capitalist restoration, the great achievements of the Revolution (like advances in health, education and food) are lost or are being lost now. Old evils that had reduced, like prostitution, re-emerge progressively. Social and wage inequality and poverty grow exponentially. Several novels by the known Cuban writer Leonardo Padura show this reality. Anyone that went to Cuba and left the privileged and protected environment of hotels from the Spanish chain Meliá surely saw this decline directly.
Thus, when Raúl Castro talks about “defending the achievements of the revolution” (and the Western media echoes these words,) he is not talking about what we just exposed and that was attacked and eroded for years by the Cuban governments. What he is actually saying is that he wants to defend his privileges and the Castrista apparatus’. Miguel Díaz-Canel is the man elected to help him with this task and continue it after his death.
US imperialism’s policy
We have seen several European imperialist countries and Canada as the great beneficiaries of the capitalist restoration. The US imperialism, on its side, is loosing “business opportunities” because of the laws voted in Cuba in the 60s, after the revolution.
Obama tried to modify that: he met with Raúl Castro several times (one of them during his visit to the island), resumed the diplomatic relationship between the countries and committed to encouraging the annulment of the laws that restricted the bilateral trade and impeded US investments in Cuba. In his speech, he established the criteria: you let us do good business here and we will not question the regime neither demand its “opening.”
This was a rupture with the historic demands of the Cuban bourgeoisie living in Miami (gusanos): the restitution of the goods expropriated by the revolution (as a central aspect) and the defeating of the Castro regime. With his policy, Obama got to divide this bourgeoisie: Mark Rubio, Cuban Republican Senator in Miami, traveled with him to Cuba.
Donald Trump is changing Obama’s policy and has announced that he will take Obama’s agreements back. It is possible that he reflects the pressure and connections with the most truculent sector of the gusanos, together with his need of showing a “harsher” profile. But, as in many other aspects, his intentions of “harshening” his policy go against the deep processes of reality.
So, his policy oscillates and/or stays “half the way.” In this case, it is possible that he does not push the derogation of the 1960’s laws, but at the same time he looks aside before the US investments in Cuba (maybe disguised as “Canadian” or “European”). It is also known that the IMF and the World Bank will give credits to “subsidize the modernization”, and Trump will not oppose it.
Finally: on the Castrista regime
In a previous material that we have mentioned already, we analyze the regime built by the Castro for almost five decades:
“As we said, during the period of existence of the Cuban Workers’ State, the Castro and Cuban CP built a bureaucratic, repressive regime that impeded any type of democratic freedoms for workers and the masses. But during all these years, the same regime defended the social bases of the Workers’ State.
After it was the regime itself that restored capitalism and it guaranteed the process of imperialist entry. As we said, around the Castrista summit there is a new bourgeoisie, associated to imperialist investments. The conclusion is that the Castro brothers’ regime is a dictatorship, or a totalitarian government in a capitalist country, serving the economic colonization”. [Our translation. Source: https://litci.org/es/menu/especial/stalinismo-y-restauracion/que-se-discute-tras-la-sucesion-de-fidel-2006/]
Will there be an “opening” (even a controlled one) of the regime, with Díaz-Canel? Everything shows that there will not; that the policy of Raúl Castro and the Castrista apparatus’ policy is to deepen imperialist insertion but keeping absolute control on the life and political superstructure of the country.
Also, two videos of Díaz-Canel appeared in the media. On one of them, he is meeting with Human Right Cuban activists, demanding them to leave their activities, especially the diffusion of their demands on the internet. On the other, he is meeting with cadres of the party, questioning if Obama’s goal negotiating Raúl wasn’t to “destroy the revolution”.
There is one aspect in which we can make a consideration: the extension of internet access (currently around 5%, according to a UN report of 2016). According to Díaz-Canel: “to forbid it would be an impossible deception, out of sense”. Actually, his words seem more like a resigned acceptance of an objective tendency rather than a concession.
The Cuban workers and people must fight for their democratic freedoms and to end the Castro regime. But those freedoms will not come from the hand of imperialism. In the end, imperialism prefers to operate through the Castro regime and negotiate with it. Even less will democratic freedoms come from the gusanos in Miami, expelled from Cuba in the 1959 revolution. This fight must be intimately linked to the construction of a new Cuban Workers’ State, and with it, the recovery of the achievements lost or being lost. In this task, the Castrista regime (Díaz-Canel included) is the immediate enemy to fight.