The nation is preparing for his successor, Diaz-Canel, 57, to take over on April 19, 2018.
Cubans will later this week witness the making of another chapter in their nation’s history when incumbent President Raul Castro, 86, steps down after a decade in power, a decision he announced way back in 2013. Expectedly, the country is in virtual carnival mood to usher in their new leader. Raul, who will still remain Secretary of the Communist Party, first took over temporarily from his older brother, Fidel Castro on July 31, 2006 when the latter underwent surgery; then formally on February 19, 2008 when Fidel resigned.
This week’s generational shift in Cuba is going to see Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, take over from the Castro family that ruled the Communist island nation for more than half a century. “This is important symbolically because it’s the passing of the baton from the historic figures led by the Castros to the next generation,” explained Ted Piccone, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
A jeans-wearing former electrical engineer, Miguel Diaz-Canel was not even born when the Cuban Revolution began on July 26, 1953. Observers say he is distinguished from many of the senior Communist Party officials by his youth and vigour. He has risen through the Communist Party ranks from his hometown of Villa Clara, and then in Holguin.
He was promoted to the 14-member Politburo, the highest leadership of the Communist Party, and in 2009 made Minister of Higher Education. In 2013, the National Assembly promoted him to First Vice President. Frequently described as “enigmatic,” the father of two from his first marriage, later met his second wife, Liz Cuesta Peraza, while in Holguin. The future First Lady is now a high ranking official in the Ministry of Culture.