He is the new president of Cuba but from his first address to the National Assembly Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez said he will continue along the same path as his predecessors.
Mr Diaz-Canel has a reputation as a party loyalist with little public reputation or charisma. Last year, a video of a Communist Party meeting was leaked in which Mr Diaz-Canel voiced several orthodox positions that included a promise to close some independent media.
Sputnik: What impact will the new president have on Cuba going forward or will Castro still hold political influence?
Stephanie Panichelli-Batalla: yes my answer is going in the way of Raul Castro maintaining a lot of political influence. Critics and Journalists have said its true we have someone new, someone associated with the Cuban revolution in the 50’s, someone not called Castro, someone from a younger generation and that’s very important. But on the other hand we have Raul Castro who remains the leader of the Communist party which is quite a big one. In addition to that he only selected one candidate, who he has been training for quite a few years now. So it’s not someone new with new ideas that might lead to unexpected changes but someone who has been carefully selected and carefully trained who will continue to work in collaboration with Raul Castro. So in my point of view, yes we have a new president but it will very much remain the same, Castro will still have big political influence for any decision being taken in Cuba.
Sputnik: He mentions continuity, so are we likely to see an easing of tensions between Havana & Washington?
Stephanie Panichelli-Batalla: I don’t think we are about to see that happening, of course the change in President in the US, made the relationship between America and Cuba a lot worse than it had been when Obama was in power. I think much will have to come from the US if they want something to change. Havana is interested in improving relations with the US, however, they will not accept the pressure that the Trump government will try to put on them if that doesn’t change I can’t see really an imminent change coming up, despite the change of president in Cuba.
Sputnik: Cuba’s reforms are set to follow a 12 year plan, but how much impact can be delivered by the new President?
Stephanie Panichelli-Batalla: it will take before things will change really, but in fact these reforms came in when in Raul Castro came to power in 2008. In someone was surprised by Raul Castro did when he came to power and what reforms he put in place at that time. It looks like things are going in the same direction and it continues. I can see it as continuity of what has started of Castro when he came to power rather than something new because of the new President.
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