Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, first in Cuba’s line of presidential succession, is presumably well known by people in the two provinces where he served as party chief: Santa Clara and Holguin. But he is not well known by most Cubans, and those I know have a favorable but not very detailed impression of him. His contact with Americans seems to have been minimal, and there is no sign of interest or involvement with issues involving the United States or foreign affairs in general.
Journalists’ profiles of him have produced lots of nuggets; see the Economist, the Los Angeles Times, Reuters, AP, the New York Times, BBC Mundo, Café Fuerte, and the Herald. (Mentions of his liking for the Beatles – who doesn’t? – remind me of the shortlived Yuri Andropov’s purported love for jazz.)
Still, there’s no definitive sense of the man, and no sense of where he stands on the big issues facing Cuba today. In contrast, Cubans did have a measure of the last next-generation figure who served in the top leadership, Carlos Lage. His job was economic policy, he was associated with the openings of the early 1990’s, and he was known as someone who did not live high on the hog.
So there are many blanks to be filled in about Diaz-Canel. If the plan is to carry out a smooth transition to this presumptive successor, one can guess that his profile will continue to increase in Cuba, that he will be seen and heard from in a governing role.
If he does become president in 2018 or sooner, one thing is absolutely clear. He has zero political capital as a historical figure, military hero, or anti-Batista activist; he’s too young for all that. His political base in the party, government, and military is purely an inside game. As for public support, that will have to be earned based on what he stands for today, and what government actually delivers in the coming years.
(Cuban media photo.)