Down in Cuba, the word is that First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel, a man who looks much like Jose Canseco’s older brother, will take over in February when Raul retires.
There are two points of view going around.
The first one is that Diaz-Canel will be a figurehead who will check with Raul every time he wants to make a move. Or, the second is that he will run to Sr. Trump for the Cuban version of “Nixon goes to China”.
Cuban President Raul Castro’s enigmatic heir apparent is a rumored Beatles fan who reportedly once grew his hair long during the rise of Western pop music.
He’s pushed for improved internet connectivity on the island essentially frozen in time since the 1960s and advocated for gay rights.
But the chances Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba’s vice president who is expected to take the reins from the Castro family in February for the first time in decades, will thaw President Donald Trump’s modern-day Cold War with the Communist-ruled country are slim.
Diaz-Canel, 57, will likely serve in a largely ceremonial role as a Castro puppet controlled by the Communist Party and restricted from opening renewed dialogue with the U.S. even if he wants to, analysts say.
Castro, 86, will be stepping down from the presidency on February 24, 2018, but not from power, said Jaime Suchlicki, director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami. Castro will remain influential as the Secretary General of the Communist Party, the regime’s most powerful decision maker.
“Diaz-Canel is not one of the top leaders of the Communist Party and he is no significant leader of the Cuban military,” Suchlicki said. “He has no base of support, no popular support, no party support, no military support. So he is going to be subservient to the orders of nine or 10 generals that are running Cuba, including Raul.”
So what happens in Cuba?
My guess is that Mr. Suchlicki is right. Mr. Diaz-Canel is an obvious figurehead who has not been allowed to leave the castle other than when he is standing with Raul Castro at some official event. He has no power or support in Cuba. It’s hard to see where such a figurehead goes to do anything other than carry out Raul’s orders.