Saturday, April 21, 2018

Meet The New El Jefe, Same As The Old El Jefe

After more than a decade, Raul Castro has stepped down as Cuba's president, handing off power to his selected successor and Cuba is still Cuba. Anyone hoping for major new reforms, especially in the Trump era, are going to be majorly disappointed.

His handpicked successor, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, 57, is a Communist Party loyalist who was born a year after Fidel Castro claimed power in Cuba. His rise ushers in a new generation of Cubans whose only firsthand experience with the revolution has been its aftermath — the early era of plenty, the periods of economic privation after the demise of the Soviet Union, and the fleeting détente in recent years with the United States, its Cold War foe.

Officials started gathering here in Havana on Wednesday morning and put forward Mr. Díaz-Canel as the sole candidate to replace Mr. Castro, all but assuring his selection by the Communist Party.

Though Mr. Díaz-Canel’s path to the top office has been forecast for years, many an heir apparent before him has fallen by the wayside in the search for a successor to lead the country, whether because of party disloyalty, snide remarks or projecting too much power for the Castros’ liking.

In that delicate balancing act, Mr. Díaz-Canel, a former provincial leader who became the most important of Cuba’s vice presidents, has shown the sort of restraint prized by the Castros. But that same caution has left him an enigma both inside and outside the country.

Few American officials — even those in the United States Embassy in Havana — have spent time with him or can claim to have shared more than a few passing words. Even the most seasoned Cuba experts have only faint clues as to what he will do, how he will lead and how much latitude he will have to chart his own course.

Cuba’s next president could be hemmed in from multiple sides. For one, Raúl Castro is expected to remain the head of the Communist Party and wield great influence. Even Fidel, who ruled Cuba since the revolution, did not officially become president until years later, allowing others to occupy the post while he ran the country.

Beyond that, the diplomatic opening with the United States has closed abruptly under President Trump, limiting Mr. Díaz-Canel’s ability to maneuver economically.

There is nothing in his résumé to suggest he is going to take risks,” Theodore Piccone, a Cuba scholar at the Brookings Institution, said of Mr. Díaz-Canel. “But that is the way the system works — anyone willing to take the risk before now would not be in line to be the president.”

I would have to think that if Clinton were in charge, there would be a much greater chance of real detente with Cuba.  Alas, America made its decision, and it appears so has Raul Castro.

Besides, even if you did want democratic reforms in Cuba, why would you want them with, you know, a country that has Donald Trump for a leader?

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