The Number Two / Yoani Sanchez

Miguel Díaz Canel Foto tomada de
Miguel Díaz-Canel. Photo from

Ring, ring, ring …. international calls always take an eternity to open a passage through to a phone in Cuba. As if they had to push through a thick, dense atmosphere. Finally a voice answers on the other end of the line. It’s a friend whom I try to ask about what he thinks of the recently confirmed Council of State and the naming of Miguel Diaz-Canel as first vice-president. “What?” is the only answer I get at first. Then I explain that this Sunday, from Brazil, I was following the formation of the Cuban National Assembly and I would like to complete the report with some impressions from the Island. My friend yawns, confirms that he didn’t watch TV yesterday, and that no one has said anything to him. And I realize that I suffer from the evil of hyper-information, mixed with a certain distortion, produced by my distance from Cuba. I had forgotten the indifference shown by many of my compatriots when confronted with certain issues that are so predictable they no longer generate any expectations.

The designation of the number two man in the Cuban nomenklatura has probably been more commented on and discussed outside the Island than inside. In part because for several months the national media has already been suggesting — with constant allusions to this 52-year-old engineer — that he could become the successor to Fidel Castro. So few were surprised when the former Minister of Higher Education became, as of Sunday, yesterday, the “dauphin” of the Cuban regime. Their biological clock has the octogenarians governing the Greater Antilles at a crossroads: either establish the inheritance now or forever lose the chance seems to be dictating the hands of history. So the line of succession has been left to a much younger figure. They have based their choice on their confidence in the fidelity and manageability of Diaz-Canel, trapped between a commitment to his superiors and a conviction of how limited his real power is.

History shows us that the behavior of these dauphins while they are being observed by their bosses is one thing, and something else entirely when those bosses are no longer around. Only then will we discover who the real man is who yesterday became number two in Cuba. However, I have hopes that the fate of our country will not be decided by this Council of State, nor by this presidential chair. I have hopes that the era of the olive-green monarchs, their heirs and their entourage is ending.

25 February 2013