The Cuban Parliament on Wednesday elected Miguel Diaz-Canel as president for a second term of five years, in a vote without surprises in which he was the only candidate in a country where dissent is taboo. Diaz-Canel’s victory was confirmed after he received the support of 97.66 percent of the vote in a parliament dominated almost entirely by the Communist Party.
New MPs Cuban Wed confidence in the president Miguel Diaz-Canel for a second five-year presidential term, following a parliamentary vote that bore no surprises and in which he was the only candidate in a country that does not recognize the opposition.
Diaz-Canel’s victory was confirmed after he won the support of 97.66 percent of the vote in the National Assembly, where the Communist Party almost completely dominates, said Esteban Lasso, president of the 470-member chamber.
In the presence of 92-year-old Raul Castor, Laso said: “Based on the announced results, I proclaim Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez as President of the Republic.”
According to the Cuban constitution, the president can serve two terms.
Who is Miguel Diaz-Canel?
Diaz Canel has held the position of first secretary in the Cuban Communist Party since 2021, and he is the first civilian to take power in the country in 2018, succeeding Raul Castro, who had succeeded his brother Fidel.
His first term was overshadowed by the worst crisis in Cuba in three decades, as the country faces a shortage of food, medicine and fuel due to the tightening of the US embargo imposed since 1962, and as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which the government responded to with vaccines manufactured and developed locally.
And as of 2021, the country is witnessing major monetary reforms that put an end to a policy that had been applied for decades that determined the exchange rate of the Cuban peso at the equivalent of the US dollar, but the amendments caused major repercussions on the national economy. The United States has imposed sanctions on Cuba since 1962, three years after the communist revolution and Fidel Castro took power after the US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista was overthrown.
Diaz-Canel encouraged entrepreneurship and the work of small and medium-sized companies, but these measures proved insufficient to improve the economic situation. In this context, US-based Cuban international relations expert Arturo López Levy said Diaz-Canel “has not made a complete and comprehensive transition to a mixed economy.” He added, “Some of the (planned) economic changes did not happen, and others left many doubts regarding its implementation.”
Rare achievements, demonstrations and mass exodus
The monetary reform caused an inflationary spiral and a sharp depreciation of the peso, which aroused great discontent among the population. The official exchange rate of the Cuban currency fell in two years from 24 to 120 pesos to the dollar. On the black market, the exchange rate reaches 185 pesos to one dollar.
During a recent interview in Havana with the Lebanese TV channel Al-Mayadeen, which is considered close to Syria and Iran, Diaz-Canel said he was “dissatisfied” because he could not “promote a more efficient set of measures in order to solve these” economic problems.
George Duany of Florida International University said one of Diaz-Canel’s “rare achievements” was “the transition to a regime led by a new generation born after 1959 that does not bear the Castro name.” However, he stressed that his “biggest failure” was the mishandling of the July 2021 demonstrations, the largest on the island since 1959.
These demonstrations left one dead and dozens injured. More than 1,300 people were arrested and about 500 were sentenced to prison terms of up to 25 years, according to the Miami-based human rights organization Kobalix. This crisis has led to an unprecedented mass displacement of more than 300,000 Cubans in 2022 alone.