BY LOLA CAMPOS
Cuba has elected a new president: Miguel Díaz-Canel.
It only took minutes before every gusano in Miami-Dade County hopped on their phones and spouted their bogus analysis of Cuba’s political processes and its future. But, don’t believe the reactionaries.
Here are five things you need to know about the newest president to take the helm of Latin America and the Caribbean’s oldest revolutionary government.
1. He’s an OG.
Obviously, anyone elected for the leadership of Cuba holds a long legacy of serving the people. Díaz-Canel is no exception.
He served three years in the People’s Revolutionary Army and was named Vice President of Cuba in 2013. Before that, he was appointed Minister of Higher Education in 2009. He also served as a personal bodyguard to Raul Castro. Díaz-Canel grew up in Santa Clara, the famous province where Ernesto “Che” Guevara led one of the most important battles of the revolutionary war against Fulgencio Batista’s U.S.-backed dictatorship.
He has been involved in leftist political affairs throughout most of his life.
2. He’s unapologetically anti-capitalist and fiercely anti-imperialist.
Upon his election, many speculated Díaz-Canel would introduce economic and political changes that the capitalist-imperialist global elites are salivating over. This isn’t the case.
During his acceptance speech, Díaz-Canel made his position clear, saying “Cuban foreign policy will remain unchanged and we reiterate that no one will be able to weaken the Revolution, nor make the Cuban people yield because Cuba does not make concessions against its sovereignty and independence”.
He also defended the self-determination of his nation. “We will never give in to pressure or threats,” he said. “The changes that are necessary will continue to be decided sovereignly by the Cuban people.” Click here to watch his full acceptance speech.
Additionally, Díaz-Canel has provided his own thoughts on the importance of Latin American and Caribbean unity in organizations like the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC, and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, ALBA.
3. He’s progressive and practices what he preaches.
Díaz-Canel is no reactionary. He is a progressive revolutionary who has served Cuban people from all walks of life.
After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba entered the Special Period, when food and resources were extremely scarce. During this time, he rode his bicycle to and from work to save petroleum rather than use the private car service he had access to as a government minister. Moreover, when a gay club in his province came under attack by protesters, he stood, as any revolutionary should, with the LGBTQ+ community and defended their rights.
Díaz-Canel welcomes Bolivian President Evo Morales in Havana, Cuba. | Source: @evoespueblo
Díaz-Canel welcomes Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. | Source: @nicolasmaduro
4. He will continue Cuba’s alliances with progressive Latin American and Caribbean states.
Díaz-Canel made a clear public statement when he hosted Bolivian President Evo Morales and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as the first two heads of state to visit him in Cuba. It showed the world that Cuba will continue to stand with democratically-elected and popularly-supported leftist leaders in the region.
Most importantly, it sent a message to the largest capitalist-imperialist hegemon, the United States, that Cuba will not betray its revolution.
Saludamos al Hno. Miguel Mario Díaz Canel Bermúdez, elegido democráticamente Presidente de Consejo de Estado por la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular de Cuba. Es la garantía de la profundización del legado revolucionario del Cmdte. Fidel Castro, su hermano Raúl y pueblo cubano. pic.twitter.com/e8Ek90d19t
— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) April 19, 2018
En nombre del Gobierno Bolivariano de Venezuela felicito al nuevo Presidente de la República de Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel. Seguiremos trabajando como pueblos hermanos por la consolidación de la Patria Grande y garantizando derechos sociales para nuestros pueblos. pic.twitter.com/atfufvO4Cj
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) April 19, 2018
Díaz-Canel also reiterated Cuba’s support for Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his progressive Sandinista government as right-wing “protesters” lead attacks across the country in an operation that is basically a carbon copy of Venezuela’s 2014 “La Salida” campaign.
The IX National Assembly for People’s Power on April 19, 2018. | Source: Parlamento Cubano
5. He was democratically elected.
While The New York Times or Miami Herald may have you thinking otherwise, Díaz-Canel is not Raul’s “hand-picked successor.” It’s important to understand Cuba’s democratic system to know why this is not true.
Cuba just convened its most recent legislative elections for 605 representatives during the Ninth National Assembly for People’s Power. Half of the representatives came from municipal elections and the other half were nominated by various agricultural sectors, unions and social organizations. There were several elections beforehand to shrink the pool until final candidates were chosen. The decisive election took place on March 11, 2018, when 86 percent of Cubans (7.6 million) people cast their ballots for their representatives.
These 605 legislators were selected by millions of Cubans. The majority of those elected (over 53 percent) are women. Over 40 percent of those elected are Black or people of color. These folks — who represent almost every sector of Cuban society, without compensation or monetary interests, and who are vouched for by millions — cast their own votes to elect Cuba’s new president.
This is how Díaz-Canel was put into power.
The Revolution Continues
With all his qualifications, we are certain Cuba’s future will remain in good hands for many years to come. Some on the left have expressed disappointment in having another visibly-white Cuban man at the forefront of the revolution, which is a valid concern. However, we must remember that this is far from the only position of power within the revolution.
Our gaze from outside of Cuba is tainted by the individualist capitalist-imperialist paradigm that dictates presidential powers as the only power. For Cuba, as are for many other things on the island, this is not a given. Cuba, second in the world to Rwanda, has the highest number of women in parliament.
The Caribbean nation continues to defy stereotypes with Black doctors, engineers and political leaders. We do look forward to the day a Black woman serves as President of Cuba, but this does not mean they are prevented from leadership on the island. It’s quite the opposite.
We place our trust in comrade Díaz-Canel that the Cuban people will continue their revolutionary process and their solidarity with oppressed nations across the Third World.