Cuba’s next president faces choice between economy and communism

On April 19, Cuba’s National Assembly will meet to elect Cuba’s next president. There will only be one name on the ballot for the legislators to consider and the vote will be unanimous. First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel will become president and Raul Castro, at 86 years old, will formally retire from government. Raul personally selected Diaz-Canel five years ago as his first vice president and has groomed him as his successor.

While Raul will retire from his head of state position, he will continue as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, where he is likely to exercise a chairman of the board role rather than chief executive officer. At 57 years old, Diaz-Canel was born after the 1959 Cuban Revolution. He is a civilian who held increasingly important Communist Party positions and has a reputation as a low-key and efficient administrator.

Diaz-Canel will face serious challenges from the moment he takes over. Cuba’s Soviet-style economic model is not working. Raul has acknowledged as much and in 2011 began to implement economic reforms that allowed many Cubans to become self-employed and buy and sell residences. These changes have allowed some Cubans to achieve relative prosperity, while the majority is stuck in low-paying jobs.



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