Sunday, February 24, 2013

The generational transition begins

Cuba’s line of presidential succession changed today with the naming of Miguel Diaz-Canel, 52, as First Vice President of the Council of State. 

He replaces Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, 82.  In his speech in the National Assembly today, Raul Castro said that Machado Ventura suggested that he relinquish his post “in favor of the promotion of the new generation.”

This is the first time that a next-generation figure has been in the top level of Cuba’s leadership since the departure of Carlos Lage in 2009, and the first time that a next-generation figure has occupied the post of first vice president, which is first in line of succession. 

Diaz-Canel, trained as an engineer at the University of Villa Clara, has been increasingly visible in recent years, most recently attending the CELAC summit in Chile with Raul Castro and representing Cuba at the Caracas ceremony last month that marked the beginning of Hugo Chavez’ new term in office.

Raul Castro confirmed that this will be his last term, and he called for constitutional reform that will set a two-term limit and a maximum age for the government’s top posts.

The main task of Raul Castro’s presidency has been to fix an economy that, in his view, would put Cuba’s socialist project at risk if it were not fixed. 

He has been promoting next-generation figures in a number of posts, and he has admitted that this process has gone too slowly.  With today’s move he has put in Cubans’ sight the day when the government will be led not by a figure who fought in the 1959 revolution, but by one who grew up in it. 

Step by step, this old soldier has been preparing for the day when he will leave his post, and he has now picked the one who will relieve him.

AP story here.


Anonymous said...

Philip, as you correctly report, this is yet another appointment of a "new generation" to take over. Just like Robertico Robaina in the 1980s, and then that dope Felipe Perez Roque, and then Carlos Lage. All gone on "pyjama leave". Diaz Canel is unlikely to last long, either. Nature of the beast -0 it devours its own. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Peters,

Here is the link for teh Granma article informing the results in Spanish:

The lsat paragraph of the story states:

"El Consejo de Estado ahora cuenta con 17 nuevos miembros (54, 84 por ciento de renovación), 13 mujeres (41,94%) y 12 negros y mestizos (38,71%). La edad promedio es de 57 años."

"the council of State now has 17 new member (a 54.84 renewal), 13 women (41.94%) and twelve blaacks and mestizos (38.71%). The average age is 57 years."

By my rough count there are now 10 military, ex military and veterans of the original armed struggle in the Council of State ( I considered Marino Murillo and Adel Izquierdo as such) and 21 non military for proportions of 32.3% and 67.7 %.

Does anyone have similar statistics for the previously elected Council of State?


Antonio said...

Finally! Let us hope this transition continues and grows roots. The average Cuban today does not care about the Sierra Maestra. Watch out for the old guard, though, especially Ramiro Valdes. He is still the youngest of the Sierra Maestra generation, and in great shape physically and mentally.

In conclusion, I believe that should the next generation fail to sustain the Cuban revolution, it will be because the Sierra Maestra generation held on for too long and failed to nurture future leaders.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Peters,

Fidel Castro's political style has been characterized by the sudden shrewd surprise move that nobody is expecing and that catches his opponents flatfooted in the field.

Brainstorming a little, has anyone thought of the possibility that he might be getting ready to pull a "If they can lick you join them strategy" as opposed to the more well known"if you can't lick them join them" variant.

Bu this I mean that both brothers might know their game might be over soon and are preparing to make an all out effort to overturn the US embargo.

By this I mean that if they forecast the following TS scenario in the near future:
1- Chavez dies.
2- Venezuela is in such bad shape that his successors can't continue to subsidize Cuba.
3- Cuba can't find new patrons willing to subsidize them.
4- No oil is likely to be found found in the near future beneath the Cuban territorial waters.
5- Very few foreign investors are willing to do business in Cuba because the US embargo shuts out the island off from its principal market.
6- Public discomfort in the island iincreases and support for the government is going down to the degree that widespread protests might break out soon.
7- High government officials rule out repression to remain in power because of fear of being wiped out in drone attacks.

Then the only logical alternative is to try to cozy up to the US and end the embargo.

This can be done by satisfying the chief condition of the Helms Burton law that both Castro brothers are apparently out of the loop and that the country is going about maing a determined effort to satisfy the rest of the requirements.

All taht would be required for such a policy would be for Raúl policy to resign since Big Brother has done so already.

This might strenghten the hand of those American politicians pressing for the immediate unconditional lifting of the embargo.

Of course all this would be political theatre since both brothers would continue to call the shots and the politicians running the country would only be their puppets.

Such a strategy would account for the recent immigration reforms, the easing up on repression, allowing some dissidents to travel abroad, choosing younger figures to leading positions and having Raúl Castro hint at retiring.

Now I am no saying that this would necessarily be done. But it is an option that the Castro Brothers could exercise in a pinch if their situation became desperate and widespread public protests in the near future could be expected.

I believe that the hold on power of the Cuban government is not as formidable as it seems form the outside and that the Cuban government is accutely aware of its gradual loss of public support through secret polls that it carries out continually.

Thus all this might make sense as a sort of insurance policy or if you wish, a contingency plan of sorts.

Before I am crucified by the numerous Cuban experts that read your blog, I want to state in my defense, that I am only formulating the previous scenario as a brainstorming hypothesis to stimulate a debate on the subject.