Miguel Díaz-Canel on his inauguration as president of the Councils of States and Ministers of Cuba in the National Assembly of People’s Power, on April 19, affirmed that "Raúl Castro Ruz will lead the decisions of greater importance for the present and the future of the nation." Hedefined shiftas continuity, based on unity and collective direction. He announced that the Council of Ministers will be presented at the July session.

Raúl Castro emphasized that the Communist Party of Cuba, starting with its first secretary, will resolutely support the new president. In addition, having the support of the Armed Forces will be vital for Diaz-Canel. The testament received for his term in power extends until 2031, when he would celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the revolution that began on January 1, 1959, one year before his birth.

The new president said he did not come to promise anything, but to work and demand compliance with the programs contained in the Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution. He has the route iron drawn through the directives of the First Secretary and the Political Bureau of the PCC, the Guidelines for Economic and Social Policy for 2016-2021, the Conceptualization of the Cuban Social and Economic Development Model and the National Plan for Economic and Social Development until 2030, approved at the extraordinary session of the National Assembly of the People’s Power in May 2017.

General Castro, who continued to call Fidel Commander in Chief, remains as chiefcommander in chief, a position corresponding to the president according to the Constitution, since the transfer to Diaz-Canel was not mentioned. The 2 Comandantes de la Revolucion did not withdrew; Ramiro Valdés, considered obstructive of reforms, continued as vice president of the Council of State and Guillermo García as a member. Possibly the reluctance of the former to abandon power and the convenience of raising some leaders, such as Alfredo Valdés Mesa to first vice president, prevented the promulgation of the new Constitution, where Raul Castro had announced the introduction of 2 periods of 5 years and the limitation of senior positionsto 70 years of age. José Ramón Machado Ventura declined the vice presidency, according to Raúl Castro, but he remains at his side as the second secretary of the PCC.

The departure of Marino Murillo, vice president in charge of the “economic update”, the army corps general Álvaro LópezMiera, first deputy minister and chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, both close to Raúl Castro, and Mercedes LópezAcea, first secretary of the Communist Party in Havana, the three members of the Political Bureau of the PCC,is intriguing.

In the closing speech, Raúl Castro expressed that Díaz-Canel is not an improvised one, and detailed how he chose him as a relay, since he was prominent in the Union of Young Communists (UJC), for "it corresponds to the Party, the State and the government to enforce the policy of promotion withintentionality and due gradualness of young people, women, blacks and mestizos to decision-making positions … ", as well as the timetable until his retirement in 2031. Elections are held every five years, but the general revealed the unique Cuban democratic electoral process, as officially called. He said that "after his 10 years as president of the Councils of State and Ministers, the remaining three years, until the congress (of the PCC), Díaz-Canel will remain as the first secretary, to make viable the transit of the substitute."

The general bequeathed takingthe country out of the deep economic, social and political crisis, exacerbated by his inability to apply the insufficient and zigzagging reforms, and the postponement of the corresponding legislation, including the new Constitution. Raúl Castro called for essential unity to preserve the revolution and spoke of the slow progress of economic measures, including the solution of the monetary duality (Cuban peso CUP and Convertible peso CUC)and exchange rate.

He attributed the difficulties to "having to overcome the colossal obstacle of a mentality based on decades of paternalism and egalitarianism". In fact, the causes lie in establishing state ownership and central planning, eliminating economic and banking controls in the early 1960s, rejecting the market economy, and confiscating eventhe remaining MSMEs with the Revolutionary Offensive in 1968,which fostered inefficiency, incompetence, corruption and depreciation of moral and ethical values. Managers at all levels have obstructed the harmful modifications to their prebends.

Raul Castro reiterated the validity of self-employment (trabajoporcuentapropia-cuentapropistas) and the continuation of the experiment with the non-agricultural cooperatives, although the new licenses continue to be at halt. As positive he cited restructuring the external debt with the main creditors and achieving some reductions with more comfortable terms, but it is growing thus owing again.

Regarding the United States, Diaz-Canel toughened the wording. He pointed out that since the arrival of the current president, the deliberate setback in relations, the reduction of personnel and the activities of the embassies have occurred, under the pretext of health problems of diplomatic personnel in Havana,the aggressive and threatening tone prevails in his declarations, and the embargo has intensified.

Liz Cuesta, first lady, figure eliminated by Fidel Castro since 1959 and to a certain extent assumed by VilmaEspin, has surprised participating in the official welcoming ofNicolásMaduro and the "first combatant", on official visit, April 20th, coinciding with the birthday of the new president.

Cubans in the small archipelago have remained indifferent to the historical milestone of not having anomnipotent Castro, since they consider Diaz-Canel, a propagandist-ideologist,powerless to bring about economic improvement or willingness to open to their free participation in the present to create the future with adequate quality of life.

Miriam Leiva

Independent journalist

Havana, April 23, 2018

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