Miguel Diaz Canel

Díaz-Canel named Cuba’s Communist Party chief


Cuba’s Communist Party announced on Monday (April 19) the country’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel will succeed Raúl Castro, the late Fidel Castro’s younger brother,  as the party’s first secretary.

Diaz-Canel, who turns 61 on Tuesday, was voted out as Raul Castro’s successor at 8th PCC Congress. The party’s first secretary is also the head of the country’s highest decision-making body, the Politburo, and thus Cuba’s de facto leader.

The transition means that the island will be governed by someone other than Fidel or Raúl Castro for the first time since the Cuban revolution in 1959.

Earlier this month, Raul Castro, 89, announced his resignation as the Communist Party of Cuba’s leader. Speaking on Friday, when Díaz-Canel had not been officially named yet as first secretary, the 89-year-old said that he would hand over the leadership to a younger generation “full of passion and anti-imperialist spirit”.

Raúl Castro (R) and Miguel Díaz-Canel (L)
Raúl Castro (R) and Miguel Díaz-Canel (L)

Raul Castro had been in the post since 2011, when he took over from his older brother, Fidel Castro.

An electrical engineer by training, Díaz-Canel has a long history in Cuban politics. He was born in Placetas a year after Fidel Castro took power. He obtained an electrical engineering degree in 1982, fulfilled his military service and served on a mission to Nicaragua. Diaz-Canel’s political career began in his early 20s when he was a member of the Young Communist League in Santa Clara.

He made a name for himself as an efficient administrator while serving as the top Communist Party official for the province of Villa Clara, a post equivalent to governor. There, people described him as a hard-working, modest-living technocrat dedicated to improving public services. Díaz-Canel also earned a nickname “Día y Noche,” or Day and Night for showing up unannounced to inspect whether workers were actually on the job.

In 2009 he was the minister of higher education and dictated the guidelines to Cuban universities. In 2012 he rose to one of Cuba’s vice presidencies and soon thereafter was named first vice president. He took over from Raul as president in 2018.

Cuba at a glance

Population: 11,032,343 (July 2021 est.)
Area (total): 110,860 sq km
Natural Resources: cobalt, nickel, iron ore, chromium, copper, salt, timber, silica, petroleum
Real GDP rate: 1.6% (2017 est.)
Inflation rate: 5.5% (2017 est.)
Unemployment rate: 2.6% (2017 est.)
Public debt: 47.7% of GDP (2017 est.)
Moody’s rating: Caa2 (2014)
Legal system: Civil law system based on Spanish civil code

With reporting by Telesur and agencies