Friday, March 1, 2013

The new #2

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.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Peters,

He rose because he had the qualities needed at this moment to suceed,

Natural intuitive intelligence that allowed him to figure out was being requested of him, to execute it intelligently, through hard work and good human relations that allowed him to get along with his superiors and with the population at large.

None of this allows us to forecast what he will do if he ever wields power in Cuba.

One of the qualities needed for political survival and promotion in present day Cuba was discretion and holding your cards close to your vest so as not to provide your enemies with ammunition to criticize you.

You simply listen to your instructions and try to fulfill them as diligently and intelligently as possible.

What such a man will do with power once he has no superiors and has the primary responsibility to solve the problems facing the country is unknown.

However, circumstances will force him to be a reformer and once he embarks on reforms these seem to have their own pace and a logic all of their own and it is hard to perceive what he will attempt to do and his degree of success.

Several things are clear. First, for the time being he will keep his own intentions to himself and attempt to stay in power by obediently following the instructions of the Castro brothers.

Second if he reaches power, he will face daunting tasks and by necessity he will become a reformer.

He will also face considerable internal and external opposition.

We will learn more about his true intentions, only when he takes over power and ceases to fear that his superiors could depose him.

Trying to figure out what he would do when his time comes is like trying to knock out a boxer in a full defensive mood whose arms are draped around his neck to avoid a decisive punch.

One must remember that the first objective of a politician is to stay in power.

Once he feels safe and is sure that he is not threatened we can expect to begin to see what he intends to do with it.