Castro Socialism Will Be Goal for Cuba's New President

The country's economy is in desperate need of reform and US-Cuba relations are on the rocks after a brief honeymoon.

President Mario Diaz-Canel has made his first speech as Cuba's new head of state with a pledge to continue the socialist revolution led by his predecessors Fidel and Raul Castro. His departure from the presidency is nonetheless a symbolically charged moment for a country accustomed to 60 years of absolute rule first by revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and, for the last decade, his younger brother. Diaz-Canel and Castro embraced, and Castro left the stage.

He said that Cuba's foreign policy would remain "unaltered" and that any "necessary changes" would be decided by the Cuban people.

Eduardo Gamarra, a professor of Latin American politics at Florida International University in Miami, said Diaz-Canel is neither a progressive nor liberalizing politician.

Meanwhile, 86-year-old Raul Castro will continue to retain power as the head of the Communist party, which has been designated by the constitution as "the superior guiding force of society and the state", and the Chief of the Army.

In line with greater access to the internet and the information it contains, Diaz-Canel is reportedly a proponent of more critical media coverage of the Cuban government.

A 68-year-old agricultural engineer, Salvador Antonio Valdes Mesa, has been proposed to replace Diaz-Canel as first vice president. But in the short term it is unlikely to herald major changes to the one-party system or state-dominated economic model.

Maduro also reaffirmed that Cuba and its new President Diaz-Canel would have the unquestioned support of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as they "face together the challenges and battles for social justice and human development in this convulsion world, in the months and years to come". "For economic management, it is imperative to unify the currencies and the exchange rates".

According to Jimenez, "out of necessity [Diaz-Canel] will be really focused on the Cuban economy and making some reforms to both address some long-standing issues within the state sector and also seeking to expanding and institutionalising elements of the non-state sector to help the economy grow again".

That's probably his greatest legacy, said LeoGrande.

"He broke the psychological barrier with more market-oriented reforms", said LeoGrande, "but it is unfinished business".

Cuba calls its political processes democratic.

It was a historic, though understated, handover. The two countries re-established diplomatic relations in 2015, despite a continued decades-long USA trade embargo that can only be lifted by Congress. "The hardliners in the USA will make it easier for him to take that position".

"It will be a test of his political ability", he added.

However, Dominguez pointed out that while Cuba is not Trump's top priority, relations look worse than they really are.

"We're building a relationship between the government and the people here", he said then after casting a ballot for members of the National Assembly. "All of that is under the cover of gruff, grumpy, harsh rhetoric".


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