Juan Juan Almeida, 23 March 2018 — For some reason that I can not recall, the name of Diaz-Canel impressed itself on me some time ago, when one afternoon, between 1992 and 1994, I arrived at the house of the chief guard of my father (Juan Almeida Bosque) and he told me that, during a meeting attended only by members of the then Council of State of the Republic of Cuba, on the fourth floor of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (MINFAR), José Ramón Machado Ventura had shown Raul Castro, and all the others present, several files with photos of a group of young leaders proposed to hold positions within the Government.
Among them was that of a certain Miguelito Díaz-Canel, whom Raúl rejected saying that he was too young and that he had to be trained a little.
Born on April 20, 1960, a professional engineer and former university professor, Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermudez is the most presidential among all. The constant reiteration of this image over the last months suggests he can be the successor to the president of the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba.
It is curious, within the ranks of the Communist Party, former classmates, and even within his own family, his name provokes a rare mixture of opinions and mixed reactions. Former students from the Central University Marta Abreu de Las Villas (UCLV), where he graduated as an engineer, remember him as hard-working student but as one of limited inventiveness and little ingenuity.
Coworkers describe him as a reserved guy who writes verses he does not share with anyone. Some who are more inclined to risktaking, comment that his strategy of ascent to power lies simply in keeping his mouth shut. And a person close to his family expresses “many of us organize our lives around big or small decisions. This is not the case of Díaz-Canel, he is different because he situates himself on the side of the undecided so as not to attract attention or to contradict anyone.”
Regardless of opinions for or against him, Miguel Diaz-Canel is a leader manufactured by political necessity and the expiration date of the historical leaders of the island’s regime.
Skillful, with good eyesight, a better nose, and the charisma of a crocodile, the current first vice president of Cuba remains a good man who appeared in the partisan labor market after keeping his head down and managing to mold himself to please Raul Castro and his main mentor, José Ramón Machado Ventura.
If he were the successor, the degree of openness or closure of his governance would depend to a large extent on how the United States confronts the situation. However, the future of the island will not be exactly who gets the crown but who takes the scepter and can conquer the throne.
Diaz-Canel is an accepted leader, but that does not mean he is a respected man. In August of 2017, a bad video of him showed up in social networks. In it appears a Diaz-Canel expressing cheap bravado against what he described as “an avalanche of proposals and projects of subversive content,” among which he mentions the collection of digital material known as The Weekly Packet, certain private businesses that reach back to the 1950s, and even promises to close the OnCuba digital magazine.
Now, in March of 2018, this means of communication continues on the island and the boys of the ’Packet’ continue distributing audiovisual material. The authority of this gentleman, as first vice-president of a dictatorial country, is more questionable than the title of stylist for Kim Jong-un’s hairdresser.
The work schedule of whoever is the new leader includes a series of important measures. These are the ones that do not solve much but are striking:
- Announce the final touches in the computerization of Cuban society, so that the population has greater access to the internet when the installation of the connection service is completed by mobile phones, known as 3G, and increase the use of new technologies nationwide.
- Repeal certain regulations and create others.
- Reform the country’s financial system.
- Approve a new law for foreign investment.
- Complete a labor reform focused on increasing, conclusively, the quality of employment of Cuban workers, generating more self-employment and improving, ostensibly, the treatment of pensioners.
Can Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel execute these important measures? I doubt it. This agenda is designed to confuse public opinion, add a new element to the scenario of Cuba-US relations, play with the uncertainty of the people and destroy, with intangible reforms, the plans for a dissent that offers very little.