By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton
This coming Wednesday, Raul Castro will hand the Cuban communist baton to a hand-picked successor named Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57. This will be the first time in 59 years that one of the murderous Castro brothers has not led Cuba. Raul Castro is now 86 and his health is failing. He has been president of Cuba since 2008. Fidel toddled off to hell not long ago and his brother should join him shortly. Fidel Castro ruled Cuba as prime minister starting in 1959 and then as president starting in 1976. He passed away in November of 2016. As founders of Cuba’s 1959 communist revolution, Fidel and Raul Castro directly shaped the country’s history and its role in power dynamics across the globe.
Some have speculated on Díaz-Canel’s moderate views but, in the past year, he has taken an increasingly hard line, emphasizing the continuation of Cuba’s single-party political system and centrally planned economy. Diaz-Canal will be appointed by Raul Castro. He will not be nominated or elected. They don’t even bother with fake elections in Cuba like Russia does.
Miguel Díaz-Canel is considered a rising star in the Communist Party. Little is known about him other than he has been in politics most of his adult life. It is a certainty he is a communist extremist just as the Castros were. He was the leader of the Communist Party of Cuba in the Villa Clara province between 1994 and 2003. His personal life is shrouded in mystery, but I have a feeling we are about to get a front row seat to his viewpoints and his political proclivities. For the past five years, he has held the title of first vice president — a title also once held by Raul Castro under the regime of his brother, Fidel.
Before rising to be first vice president of Cuba, Diaz-Canel was minister of higher education. That title in a communist regime sends a cold shiver down my spine. Díaz-Canel is no fan of independent journalism. He was caught on tape in 2017 criticizing independent media to other members of the Communist Party. He will censor and use them as propaganda outlets just as the Castros did. This guy also has no love for the United States, so relations with Cuba are likely to deteriorate. Not that they were peachy before, or that they even should be. They are communists after all.
During a speech in October, he criticized the U.S. for saying that Cuba needed to move toward democracy. “Imperialism can never be trusted, not even a tiny bit, never,” he stated, comparing Cuban citizens getting more of a say in their government with a hostile American takeover. He was captured in a video leaked last summer criticizing independent media and telling Communist Party members that the embassies of the U.S., Norway, Spain, Germany and Britain were supporting “subversive activity.” Díaz-Canel said the Obama administration’s 2015 re-establishment of relations between the U.S. and Cuba “was a different way [for the U.S.] to try to reach its final objective to destroy the revolution.”
In a video tape of a meeting of Communist Party members that was leaked and posted on YouTube last year, Díaz-Canel said: “The U.S. government… invaded Cuba, put the blockade [embargo] in place, imposed restrictive measures. Cuba did not do any of that, so in return for nothing they have to solve those asymmetries if they want relations and if they want normalization of the relations.”
Things may not get any easier for Cuba under Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and John Bolton, Trump’s new national security adviser and that’s a very good thing. In 2002, Bolton, then undersecretary of state for arms control, accused Cuba of sharing bioweapons technology with other “rogue states.” Which they did. Bolton has a history of favoring sanctions and has said he doesn’t “do carrots” when negotiating with rogue nations.
Pompeo has been highly critical of Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba, calling it “misguided” and offering too many concessions with little in return. But during his Senate confirmation hearing, Pompeo indicated he favored once again building up the staff at the downsized U.S. Embassy in Havana. Let’s hope that does not happen.
Don’t expect Raul Castro to be giving up all his influence and power either. He will still remain the head of the country’s Communist Party and it is suspected that he will have a lot of influence over the new president. Jaime Suchlicki, director of the Cuban Studies Institute in Miami, told USA Today that it’s possible that Raul Castro will not actually be giving up anything other than a title. “Raúl never liked the diplomatic activities, going to the parties,” he said. “So he’s going to put this guy in there and create a facade for the new generation. But Díaz-Canel is not going to have any decision-making power.”
In early March, the Trump administration announced it would permanently reduce the staff at the U.S. Embassy in Havana by 60 percent. The decision came after the U.S. evacuated nonessential personnel in October after embassy staff members were sickened in a series of unexplained health incidents. As a result, the State Department issued a warning, recommending Americans “reconsider” traveling to the island. Cuba denied any role and has pretended to cooperate with an FBI investigation. It is suspected that it is a sonic weapon of some sort that was used by the Cubans and/or the Russians.
What does all this mean? Things are not going to change in Cuba any time soon. In fact, they may get much worse as Russia, China and Iran get ever more entrenched in the country. Cuba is pushing their influence in South America and spreading communism wherever they can. Should we find ourselves at war with Russia, China, Iran or North Korea, we may have a real problem down south. This is what happens when you don’t care what happens outside your borders. You can’t trust communists. Communism and dictatorships spread and eventually, they come knocking at your door. Sometimes with nukes.