Who Is Miguel Díaz-Canel, Cuba’s New President?

April 19, 2018 - School Uniform

Born one year after Fidel Castro’s army took control of a island, Mr. Díaz-Canel is the initial chairman outward the Castro dynasty to lead Cuba in decades.

He took a helm of supervision on Thursday morning to a station acclaim from a National Assembly, that inaugurated him in a scarcely unanimous vote. Mr. Castro embraced him, lifting a younger man’s arm in triumph.

Mr. Díaz-Canel’s delayed and solid stand adult a ranks of a bureaucracy has come by robust faithfulness to a insubordinate means — he “is not an pretender nor improvised,” Mr. Castro has pronounced — though he mostly stayed behind a scenes until new years.

Now, as leader, Mr. Díaz-Canel is unexpected holding on a formidable balancing act. Most design him to be a boss of continuity, generally given he arrives in a shade of Raúl Castro, who will sojourn a conduct of a armed army and a Communist Party, arguably Cuba’s many absolute institutions.

But Mr. Díaz-Canel also has to figure out how to cure a economy during time when President Trump is stepping back from enchanting with Cuba. On tip of that, Mr. Díaz-Canel contingency find a approach to conduct a frustrations of a Cuban race desirous with a gait of change on a island — though a heft of his predecessor’s insubordinate credentials.

Such certification have been a bedrock of domestic energy in Cuba ever given Fidel Castro seized control of a republic in 1959. In a indirect years, a Castros ruled over Cuba with ironclad control, bolstered by a cadre of loyalists, scarcely all of whom had fought alongside them in a revolution.

In a end, a many effective antithesis to a Castro brothers was time.

Fidel Castro handed energy to Raúl in 2006, afterwards died 10 years later during a age of 90. Raúl afterwards ushered in some of a many estimable reforms in decades, and is now orchestrating nonetheless another one — a flitting of a flame to a new generation.


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After opening adult a economy to private investment and entrepreneurialism, expanding transport in and out of a republic and re-establishing ties with a good enemy, a United States, Raúl Castro has comparison Mr. Díaz-Canel to fill his shoes.


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Photo by Ismael Francisco/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.

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But “he is someone who has really small bearing to U.S. domestic or informative figures,” Daniel P. Erikson, a former State Department official, pronounced of Mr. Díaz-Canel. “Frankly, he isn’t that obvious in a rest of Latin America, either.”

In his debate before a National Assembly, Mr. Díaz-Canel offering many of a same insubordinate articulate points of his predecessors, though maybe with reduction of a animation or creativity of Fidel Castro or a gravitas of Raúl.

Raúl Castro pronounced Thursday that he suspicion Mr. Díaz-Canel would offer dual terms as president, for a sum of 10 years. After that, Mr. Castro said, he envisioned Mr. Díaz-Canel holding over as celebration personality in 2021, when Mr. Castro suggested that he would retire from that post for good. This, to some, is a glance of a destiny care structure of Cuba after a Castros.

Ever given Mr. Díaz-Canel was named initial clamp boss in 2013, Cubans and Cuba watchers comparison have scrambled to find out some-more about a puzzling successor apparent, combing by his lane record as celebration personality in a provinces of Villa Clara and Holguín, and after as apportion of aloft education, for clues on how he will lead.

In any position, according to those who knew him during a time, Mr. Díaz-Canel has been a still though effective leader, clearly open to change. Many called him a good listener, while others described him as approachable, giveaway of a rigidness and inaccessibility of standard celebration chiefs.

Through it all, he has also been a relentless defender of a series and a beliefs and politics it brought.

Stories of his Everyman qualities have widespread widely in new years: how he rode his bike to work instead of holding a supervision automobile during gas shortages; how he shielded a rights of a happy bar in Santa Clara in a face of protests; how he patiently listened to academics moan (sometimes about him) as apportion of aloft education.


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More recently, he was a heading voice in a pull for internet entrance in Cuba, arguing that a republic could not sign itself off from a outward world. Though his beliefs sojourn really most within a celebration line, those who know him contend he does not belong to a faith that Cuba can free itself from a modernization required to attend in a tellurian economy.

But in Cuba, a continuum of domestic meditative is not black and white. Often, required definitions of progressives contra hard-liners do not apply. Leaders can be both, and Mr. Díaz-Canel is an instance of that. While he is seen as open to a ideas of others, as a younger male he led a debate to suppress students who examination and discussed novel that was not authorized by a Communist Party, according to those who knew him during a time.

Last year, a video was leaked of Mr. Díaz-Canel addressing a organisation of celebration officials. In it, he lambastes a United States, claiming that Cuba had no shortcoming to accommodate a final underneath a settlement brokered by President Barack Obama.

He afterwards went on a malediction opposite a website whose work he deliberate subversive. He told associate officials that a supervision would tighten it down — no matter possibly people deliberate it censorship.

The video was seen as a approach for Mr. Díaz-Canel to seaside adult his certification with tough factions within a government, and nonetheless a examination of his career shows that he has not shied divided from opposed activities deemed out of end by a government, either.

Mr. Díaz-Canel grew adult in a executive range of Villa Clara, about 3 hours from Havana, a son of a schoolteacher and a bureau worker. He complicated electrical engineering during a Central University of Las Villas, where he was active in domestic life.

He was noticed from an early age as a rising star within Cuba’s Communist Party.

As a immature man, he assimilated a Union of Young Communists, a party’s girl league, where he stood out among his peers. He after worked as a bodyguard to Raúl Castro. According to a crony who knew him during a time, a assignment authorised him to uncover faithfulness to a cause, and drew Mr. Díaz-Canel tighten to both Raúl and Fidel Castro.


Mr. Díaz-Canel nearing for a 2015 limit assembly during a European Union domicile in Brussels.

Philippe Huguen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

He served 3 years in a army, another node of energy in a country, after that he resumed his delayed stand adult a celebration ladder.


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In his 20s, he was named a party’s relationship to Nicaragua, a usually other Communist supervision in a segment during a time, a posting noticed as critical to a Cuban government.

Rodolfo Stusser, 72, removed assembly Mr. Díaz-Canel in a late 1980s, while operative as a alloy during Nicaragua’s polite war. Dr. Stusser felt a other doctors around him were lazy, not critical about their work. And usually as he began fondness his life in Nicaragua, he was being deployed elsewhere. He took his censure to a Cuban Embassy, where he ran into a immature Mr. Díaz-Canel, who offering him a ride.

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Dr. Stusser unloaded, inventory a several injustices he felt were being visited on him. It was roughly therapeutic, he recalled. Mr. Díaz-Canel, an up-and-coming member in a celebration during a time, sat sensitively and listened for a generation of a 40-minute drive, he recalled.

“He usually listened me,” Dr. Stusser said. “He did not contend anything during all. It helped me.”

Not prolonged after, Dr. Stusser found his fortunes topsy-turvy in Nicaragua. He was authorised to stay. And an executive who was giving him a runaround done time to see him.

Dr. Stusser, who defected in 2010 and now lives in South Florida, always suspected that a soft-spoken Communist Party executive who listened though did not pronounce had sensitively worked his connectors in Havana and Managua to arrange out his issues.

Juan Juan Almeida, 52, recalls conference Mr. Díaz-Canel’s name come adult years after in conversations with his father, who was a distinguished member of a Cuban Communist Party during a time. He remembers his father entrance home one night in 1993 after a assembly in that officials discussed destiny leaders of a country.

José Ramón Machado Ventura, a member of a Cuban aged guard, due a line-up of immature leaders and Mr. Díaz-Canel’s name was among them.

“Raúl responded: He’s trustworthy, though too young,” Mr. Almeida remembers his father revelation him after a meeting. “This was a initial time we had ever listened a name Miguel Díaz-Canel.”

From afterwards on, he said, Mr. Díaz-Canel’s name came adult often. He changed from one distinguished pursuit to another — including provincial posts where he grown a repute as an effective and constant functionary.


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As initial secretary in Villa Clara Province, Mr. Díaz-Canel came to bureau during a ostensible special period, when a inexhaustible assist issuing to Cuba from a Soviet Union was abruptly cut off after a collapse.

Back then, Mr. Díaz-Canel took his bicycle to work rather than float in a air-conditioned automobile he was entitled to as a distinguished leader. It was a arrange of pierce people still pronounce about in Villa Clara and a capital, Santa Clara.

Mr. Almeida, who also defected to a United States, pronounced he and Mr. Díaz-Canel had many mutual friends, in sold musicians and artists whom Mr. Díaz-Canel had taken a time to support in their careers. The new boss also has a son who is a musician in Argentina, Mr. Almeida added.

“He mixes with a egghead class, goes to concerts and is tighten to immature people,” Mr. Almeida said. “All of a people we know who we have in common pronounce really good of him. They don’t pronounce of him in compulsory fashion.”


Mr. Díaz-Canel, from left, Mr. Castro and José Ramón Machado Ventura, who was afterwards initial clamp boss during a 2016 May Day march in Havana.

Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press

Academics and others in Havana declined to be interviewed about Mr. Díaz-Canel, given a supervision did not give them permission.

In Santa Clara, Mr. Díaz-Canel is remembered for his Bermuda shorts during a time when celebration officials wore some-more grave attire, and for wearing his hair long.

His beliefs also lopsided liberal, residents say. He lent his support to one of a country’s usually happy clubs, El Mejunje. When it non-stop decades ago, a bar was a indicate of contention. But Mr. Díaz-Canel, who took his children to a bar when it hosted children’s activities, consistently corroborated a bar in a face of controversy.

“He upheld us anytime there was a censure done opposite us,” pronounced Ramón Silverio Gómez, a club’s director. “He was an ally. And one day when we saw him he said, ‘You can keep counting on my support and my understanding.’”


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Yet some saw Mr. Díaz-Canel’s persona as crafted and reduction genuine than is mostly supposed. Sure, he rode his bike to and from work. But he was always trailed by his personal confidence in vehicles, others said.

“It was a bit of demagoguery,” pronounced Guillermo Fariñas, a obvious anarchist and Cuban clergyman who grew adult with Mr. Díaz-Canel in Villa Clara. “In terms of a gasoline, he was on a bicycle, though there were cars with confidence going behind him. It was a bit a strategy of a people.”

Mr. Fariñas removed how one night, while he was hospitalized, a energy went out. This was during a time of biggest shortages in Cuba, in a 1990s.

At about 3 o’clock in a morning, Mr. Díaz-Canel, who was initial secretary in a province, went to a sanatorium and began going from room to room, checking on patients and apologizing for a blackout.

Even behind then, Mr. Fariñas was a famous dissident. He was in a sanatorium recuperating from a craving strike.

“When they were outward my room, we could hear a state confidence agents revelation him, ‘No, don’t go to that room. That’s a counterrevolutionary’s room,’” he recalled. “Díaz-Canel was like, ‘What do we mean, don’t go to that room? Of march I’ll go to that room!’”

Mr. Díaz-Canel entered, shook Mr. Fariñas’ palm and said, “Let’s not pronounce about politics.”

The group chatted quickly before Mr. Díaz-Canel rushed off to see a subsequent patient.

“My sense was that he was doing politics,” Mr. Fariñas said.

Mr. Fariñas also removed how, after graduation, Mr. Díaz-Canel became a clergyman and celebration functionary during his university, fasten a national debate to quarrel “negative tendencies” in Cuba.


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“They attempted to remonstrate people that if we were not a genuine communist, we had to be sanctioned,” Mr. Fariñas pronounced of Mr. Díaz-Canel. “He was a conduct of that during a university.”

It was partial of a duality of Mr. Díaz-Canel, he added. Mr. Díaz-Canel could be accessible, accessible and complicated — connecting with locals, personification basketball with a girl and listening to stone music. But he could also be a fixed disciple of communism and a revolution, peaceful to overpower critics.

“He was really active, really belligerent and really umbrella in his faithfulness to a regime,” Mr. Fariñas said.

Azam Ahmed reported from Havana, and Frances Robles from Miami. Ed Augustin contributed stating from Havana.

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