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What will Díaz-Canel's Cuba be like?

Raúl Castro announced his retirement as Secretary-General of the communist party.

Miguel Dia-Canel

Raúl Castro announced his retirement as secretary general of the Cuban communist party. Photo: Flickr-Vice Presidency of Cuba

LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: ¿Cómo será la Cuba de Díaz-Canel?

Last week, Raúl Castro announced his retirement as secretary-general of the Cuban communist party. Although Raúl himself had already retired from the country's presidency, his position within the party, in a one-party political system, left enough power in the throne for the youngest of the Castros. However, now off the Cuban political map, the current president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, must take full command of the island.

The retirement of the youngest Castro, apparently, would have to do with his health. Local and international media assure that the former secretary of the Cuban Communist Party suffers from rectal cancer and early Alzheimer's.

Díaz-Canel takes the flags of the Communist Party, the most powerful body within the Government, in the midst of a very adverse panorama and with great challenges that reach the island of more than 11 million inhabitants, a population similar to that of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, being the countries with the most people in the Caribbean.

Political Challenges

In recent years, the current Government through the leadership of Raúl Castro, has been promoting different social policies that have generated great changes. For example, access to the Internet by Cubans has allowed a greater awareness of democracy and the desire for change.

Different initiatives against the regime have put the Cuban government in high tension in recent months due to an increase in anti-communist and anti-government propaganda.

For example, in response to the symbolic cry of "Patria o Muerte" (Homeland or Death)  that accompanied the revolutionaries, the "Patria y Vida" (Homeland and life) movement has been created, unifying in a song, the voices against the Government.

The Cuban regime has classified the artists who appear in the video and who collaborate in the song as "rats" and "mercenaries. And during this congress, several dissidents accused the Government of blocking the Internet on the island and implementing the prohibition of leaving their homes, to avoid signs of protest during this important event.

Also read: Is Cuba on the verge of a democratic spring?

Economy

Despite its secrecy and knowing how to face difficult times in the economy, Cuba has not been able to escape the challenges brought by the Global pandemic. For several years, ever since they lost the economic support of their main ally in the region (Venezuela), Cuba has had to reinvent itself in order to continue sustaining a precarious economy asphyxiated by an economic embargo imposed since the last century and from which everyone, from the elites to the laypeople, have suffered.

Obviously, the Cuban regime has managed to endure time with a socialist economy that has brought great results in educational and health policies. However, on the world scene, they have lagged behind other communist governments that have managed to integrate a hybrid economy, as China or Vietnam have already done.

But, a pandemic that has affected global tourism, hits much harder on an impoverished island that dependent on tourists, which saw a decline of 11% on it's economy last year. 

International policy

Miguel Díaz-Canel must walk a tightrope. He needs to try to open up the economy and rebuild relations with the United States and the rest of the world. Thus, it will also be possible to lift the economic embargo in the future. But he will try not to lose the absolute control that the Communist party has maintained on the island.

The Cuban president has already demonstrated that he has a policy similar to that of Raúl Castro, but he will have to take advantage of Joe Biden's new government in the White House in the face of a possible return of right-wing figures such as Donald Trump, a strong opponent of the restoration of relations between Havana and Washington. Although Biden himself and the Cuban government will have one of their main obstacles within the influential Cuban exile.

Until now the Cuban president has sold himself as the continuity of the Castro brothers, but now with a little more freedom we will be able to see their true spirit and their true colors.

Knowing if we are facing the beginning of the end of the Cuban dictatorship is hasty. However, these are moments of great changes to which Cuba has never been accustomed, but with a regime that has known how to adapt and be resilient.

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