Miguel Diaz-Canel was elected to succeed Raul Castro as Cuba’s new president at a plenary session of the National Assembly on Thursday.
The country’s National Assembly announced that Diaz-Canel won 99.83 percent affirmative vote.
Canel’s victory marks the first time since the Cuban revolution that someone not named Castro has been in charge of the island nation’s government. Fidel Castro ruled Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 until 1976 and then as President from 1976 until 2008. He was succeeded by his brother Raul.
There are many inside and outside of Cuba who hope a new leader means a move toward Western-style deomcracy and reforms. In his first speech as the new head of state before the National Assembly, Diaz-Canel made it clear that in his new legislature, there will be ‘no space for those aspiring to a capitalist restoration.”
“Only for those aspiring to continue improving our socialism,” said the president.
Outgoing President Raul Castro has expressed his confidence that the new leaders of the island would continue the path of the socialist revolution begun by Fidel Castro in 1959.
Speaking about the new president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, Castro highlighted his successor’s fidelity to the revolution and his political firmness.
“The election of Diaz-Canel is not a coincidence. We have no doubt that he will be fully successful in his task due to his virtues, experience and dedication to duty,” said Castro, who will remain as the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) until 2021.
In his speech to lawmakers of the Cuban parliament, Castro stressed Diaz-Canel’s work as first secretary of the party in the provinces of Holguin and Villa Clara, as minister of higher education, and as first vice-president.
Concerning the country’s new first vice-president, Salvador Valdes Mesa, the former president praised his work as Union and Party leader over several decades.
Castro insisted that the new direction of the country had the mission of ensuring this generational relay as well as guaranteeing the continuity of socialism.
“They must pay more attention to the young, for them to be better prepared when they have to assume higher positions in the political direction of the country,” said Castro.
He stressed that the election process, which concluded on Thursday, was supported by the massive participation of the Cuban citizens who defend their revolution and socialist democracy.
The 57-year-old Diaz-Canel has spent a long time serving in the Communist Party of Cuba. He headed Villa Clara Province from 1994 to 2003 and became the first secretary of the more populous province of Holguin in eastern Cuba in 2003, as well as becoming a member of the Politburo of Communist Party of Cuba.
He served as the minister of higher education before he was elected the first vice president of the Council of State in 2013.
The official newspaper in Cuba, Granma, has a series of stories on Diaz-Canel receiving leaders from foreign countries and making trips abroad. He headed a delegation group to China in 2015, the year when the two countries celebrated the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
Diaz-Canel has a reputation for being liberal and supports gay rights, greater press freedom, and access to the Internet.