Diaz-Canel: A New Image and an Old Dogma

Miguel Díaz-Canel during a meeting with the youth in Granma in which he asked them if they all had internet. (La Demajagua)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 2 July 2018 — In recent weeks, the presence of Díaz-Canel in the official media has become frequent to the point of saturation, in stark contrast to the opacity he maintained during his years in training as the dauphin of former president, Raúl Castro, with the exception — if anything — of the days before being elected by the deputies of the National Assembly, when he began to appear more regularly among the old hierarchs of the historical generation as a prelude to his future position as head of the Government.

It could be said that the de facto leader has not only inherited the Castro’s throne, but also the gift of ubiquity of the historic leader, who during his 47-year reign of omnipotence seemed to be everywhere at the same time.

So many and such public media presentations seem to pursue the intent of dressing up Raul Castro’s chosen with the legitimacy that was never verified at the ballot boxes with the votes of the electorate, and with prestige that does not even belong to him, the supposed historical distinction that the members of the almost extinct guerrilla cast of the yacht Granma or of the Sierra Maestra have granted onto themselves.

This would explain, to some extent, the forced importance that the official media give to this young president of stony temperament and impenetrable expression, whose strong attachment to the script of his predecessors confers the inevitable aura of a puppet, subject to the will of his superiors. Thus, orphaned of authority, prestige, true capacity for decision, charisma and ability for communication, the real power urges him to manufacture his doll props leadership, by cultivating that image as energetic guide, laborious, human, familial, committed to the direction of the country and very in touch with the people.

So many and so public media presentations seem to pursue the intent of appointing Raúl Castro’s chosen with the legitimacy that was never verified at the urns with the votes of the electorate

Thus, as a superhero capable of saving the nation in these turbulent times of crisis, we have seen the new president in the most varied circumstances and contexts: in shirt sleeves at the scene of an air disaster just one hour after this occurred, with an interest in the details of the tragedy, and endorsing an in-depth investigation of the facts and a complete and transparent information of what happened; on a tour of several provinces, where he has thoroughly immersed himself in the people, visiting the Sanctuary of La Caridad del Cobre, patron saint of Cuba; reverencing, as in appearance of deep reflection, before the stone that guards Fidel Castro’s ashes; leading important meetings, among others, those of the Council of State; receiving ambassadors and other distinguished visitors or attending a popular music concert where he was congratulated by one of the artists and cheered by those present.

And uncaringly and unexpectedly, taking a walk through the streets with his wife. The socialist Cuba finally debuts a first lady who appears on the asphalt in lycra and low-heeled shoes, taken by the hand of the president and slightly behind his firm step, or in a snug-fitting dress at a solemn ceremony. She does not wear fashion designer clothes or a stylish haircut; for that would not be a very dignified image of the companion of a communist president.

At the same time, there is a special interest in programming the image of a modern, carefree president, aware of what goes on in social networks and in international media, an active participant in the economic, social and cultural life of the country, distant from the stiffness and rigidity of the olive-green gerontocracy that was the visible face of power for decades.

Everything suggests an implicit will to rejuvenate the image of power, which, however, contrasts with the prevalence of the old discourse of Fidel’s revolutionary orthodoxy

Everything suggests an implicit will to rejuvenate the image of power, which, however, contrasts with the prevalence of the old discourse of Fidel’s revolutionary orthodoxy. New wine in old wineskins. Thus, paradoxically, a renewal of form coexists with a propping up of the old dogma. Just a change of appearance, a symbolic leadership that overlaps the survival of an autocratic leadership that, under the guise of evolution, continues to show its seams.

And as is to be expected, all this flapping of apparent changes is unleashing a barrage of opinions. There is no shortage of those who, even from the “enemy” of the Castros’ press, support the idea that Díaz-Canel “is winking” at the intentions of reforms for Cubans on the Island, or those who fall back into the trap of populism (“Díaz-Canel does mix with the people”), unconsciously paving the way for a renewed autocracy.

Because, it is well known, the media has great power, even to demonstrate that what is good and new is perhaps harmful and old. This very president, who now monopolizes the attention of the Castro press monopoly, has been one of the most furious Torquemadas to whip up independent journalism, incite control over the press and promote the total control of internet administration by the Government.

A modern, reformist, youthful, accessible president? As far as I’m concerned, he will remain the same as his mentors until he demonstrates the opposite with very clear actions.

Translated by Norma Whiting


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