Magazine article Washington Report on the Hemisphere

Cuba after the Castro Era

Magazine article Washington Report on the Hemisphere

Cuba after the Castro Era

Article excerpt

On March 11, nearly 8 million Cubans went to the polls to elect representatives to the National Assembly of People's Power, the unicameral national legislative body, and to provincial assemblies. Turnout was, as expected, about 85% and delegates chosen by the Communist Party won all 605 seats in the National Assembly. They will serve for the next five years.

Not every candidate is from the Communist party. Candidates selected by the National Women's Federation and approved can also run. Ofelia Ortega, from Matanzas, ran against the Communist Party candidate in previous elections in 2013 and won. In Cuba, candidates may not campaign, so there are no posters or ads. Ortega is a Presbyterian pastor, well-known in her community. She has retired, but represents a small section of Assembly delegates that provide some alternate views. Over the years, pastors and others not affiliated with the Communist party have served in the Assembly. Their power is limited, and in many cases, the Assembly simply affirms the decisions made by the Party.

The in-coming Assembly chose the first head of state not named Castro on April 19. Raúl Castro, the 86-year-old brother of Fidel, has been president since Fidel resigned for ill health in 2008. Raúl said that he would retire in 2018, although he will remain as head of the Army and in the Assembly. He will also continue to be head of the Communist Party until 2021, giving him great power. Nevertheless, it was the duty of the Assembly to choose the next President of Cuba, which was announced on April 19 as the current vice president, Miguel Díaz-Canel. At 57, Díaz-Canel is a generation younger than Raúl and those who have governed Cuba for almost sixty years. Those aging leaders had the legitimacy of fighting with Fidel in the Sierra. Díaz-Canel and the new generation do not.

Díaz-Canel studied engineering and served briefly in the Revolutionary Armed Forces. …

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