Who’s Miguel Díaz-Canel, Cuba’s seemingly new president? A glance from those that know him (News)


The diplomatic incident got here on the heels of President Donald Trump’s reversal of Obama-era coverage adjustments concerning Cuba. Trump renewed journey restrictions, and Individuals now should go to as a part of organized tour teams run by U.S. corporations.

Because the U.S. has hardened its coverage, Cuba has responded with powerful discuss.

In November, Díaz-Canel informed NBC News throughout municipal elections, “we proceed to be open to relations” with the USA. However in March, throughout Nationwide Meeting elections, he mentioned the revolution is being “attacked and threatened” by an administration that “has offended Cuba.”

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Who’s the person poised to be Cuba’s subsequent president?

Throughout the previous few weeks, Cuban state-run media has elevated the quantity of News centered round Díaz-Canel, a potential signal of what’s to come back.

The Nationwide Meeting is anticipated to ratify Díaz-Canel as the following president on Thursday — a day earlier than he turns 58 — and such a transfer would signify a generational shift from the Castros. As is usually the case with political leaders in Cuba, little is understood publicly about Díaz-Canel’s private life. Few who know him are prepared to speak about him and the federal government doesn’t launch private details about politicians.

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 China’s President Xi Jinping greets Miguel Diaz-Canel on the Nice Corridor of the Individuals in Beijing in 2013. Ed Jones / Pool by way of Reuters

A number of individuals who knew Díaz-Canel throughout his time in Santa Clara spoke to NBC News and shared their recollections of the person they name Miguelito, or Migue, whom they described as down-to-earth and accessible.

Guillermo Fariñas, one in every of Cuba’s most distinguished dissidents, was mates with Díaz-Canel throughout their pre-teen years within the 1970s. They performed basketball, and regardless of the racial discrimination that existed on the time, Fariñas, who’s black, mentioned Díaz-Canel did not present any prejudice.

Fariñas described Díaz-Canel as “curious, impulsive, aggressive, courageous and reckless, and a ‘amigo de sus amigos,'” a real good friend.

As a highschool and faculty scholar, Díaz-Canel “was pleasant, tall, with lengthy, blondish hair,” mentioned Santiago Alpizar, a Miami lawyer who ran in the identical social circles. He remembers him at events the place younger folks listened to American music, though it was frowned upon by the federal government on the time. Díaz-Canel was “jovial” and averted battle or discuss politics, Alpizar mentioned.

As a teen and younger grownup, “he was not the individual he seems to be immediately,” Alpizar mentioned.

Díaz-Canel obtained {an electrical} engineering diploma in 1982, fulfilled his navy service and served on a mission to Nicaragua, which had a leftist authorities on the time that was a robust ally of Cuba.

Fariñas mentioned their relationship modified over time after he and different psychology college students have been virtually kicked out of faculty in 1983 for taking an curiosity within the work of Sigmund Freud. In line with Fariñas, the communist authorities allowed them to check solely the work of the “rusos” (Russians). “Díaz-Canel was now not the good good friend I knew and advocated for our expulsion,” Fariñas mentioned.


But Fariñas mentioned his most up-to-date expertise with Díaz-Canel was uncommon for a Communist Celebration official and a dissident. Fariñas was recovering from a starvation strike at a hospital that had sustained {an electrical} explosion, and Díaz-Canel went to go to the sufferers. Fariñas was stunned when Díaz-Canel not solely got here to his hospital room however later requested docs what he wanted for his restoration. Once they really useful evaporated milk, he made it occur, Fariñas remembers.

Ramón Silverio, who has identified Díaz-Canel for many years, described him as “superior in his pondering.”

In 1984, Silverio had created a spot in Santa Clara referred to as El Mejunje (“hodgepodge”), to offer a protected house for LGBT folks, in addition to artists, bohemians and rockers. This was a daring transfer since Cuba was transitioning from the 1960s and ’70s when such teams have been the targets of repression and imprisonment.

Silverio recalled that Díaz-Canel was one of many political leaders who helped preserve the house open, even taking his two younger kids to the kid-themed occasions held on Sundays.

“He was a kind of individuals who went to the theater as a result of he cherished it, not as a result of he needed to adjust to a political process,” mentioned Silverio.

Agent of change, or of the established order?

Leiva, the dissident and former senior Cuban diplomat, mentioned there might not be a lot change if Díaz-Canel turns into president. She factors to the truth that Raúl Castro will stay chief of the Communist Celebration of Cuba, essentially the most highly effective political place within the nation and one which, since 1976, the Castros have held together with their presidencies (Fidel died in 2016).

“Raúl Castro, with the militares, will keep energy,” maintaining Díaz-Canel and others in verify, Leiva mentioned.


Díaz-Canel doesn’t have the clout the Castro brothers held as figures of the revolution and, because of this, he can be judged extra by the nation’s financial efficiency, in accordance with Lopez-Levy, the College of Texas professor.

“If he isn’t capable of enhance the financial scenario, he should cope with the political repercussions,” he mentioned.

A change in Cuba’s management might have an effect on its relationship with the U.S., one which has turn into more and more fractious since Trump took over.

Cuba’s financial system would profit tremendously if the U.S. Congress lastly lifts the just about six-decade U.S. embargo, mentioned Gustavo Arnavat, a senior adviser on the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research and a former Obama administration official. The reward, he mentioned, would assist Cuba attain its targets of saving the achievements of the revolution, significantly within the areas of well being and training, whereas enhancing its financial future.

However he thinks that’s not going to occur till the Cuban authorities gives one thing significant to the U.S. — particularly to a president who prides himself on doing good offers.

“The trick is discovering what that’s,” Arnavat mentioned.

Carmen Sesin reported from Miami, and Orlando Matos from Havana.



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