Castro will still hold key guiding role after handover

Castro will still hold key guiding role after handover

HAVANA - Agence France-Presse
Castro will still hold key guiding role after handover

Cuba is preparing for the end of an era next week when Raul Castro steps down as president, ending his family’s six-decade grip on power and paving the way for a younger leader.

But analysts say his replacement, expected to be 57-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel - currently Cuba’s first vice president - won’t quite be alone at the helm of the communist island.

Castro steps down on April 19th, when the National Assembly will pick Cuba’s new leader, but even at the age of 86, he will still have a pivotal role as head of the all-powerful Communist Party of Cuba until its next congress in 2021.

It’s a powerful perch from which he can keep a watchful eye on Cuba’s restive old guard who, some fear, could try to put the brakes on his more ambitious reforms.

The incoming president “will have less power in his hands than Raul or Fidel Castro,” said Jorge Duany, head of the Institute of Cuban Research at the University of Florida.

“He will have to share it with other political figures and high-ranking military.”

Cuba watcher Arturo Lopez Levy said the incoming president will “need a collegial style of management” and need to be able to strike a balance between various competing factions in the new government.

Key figures who have risen through the party like 60-year-old Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, or Marino Murillo, the 57-year-old who is a key architect of Cuba’s economic reforms, could play important roles in the incoming administration.

Much speculation also surrounds Raul’s son, Colonel Alejandro Castro, and his ex-son-in-law Luis Alberto Lopez-Calleias, who heads the powerful military-controlled Business Administration Group (GAE).

Cuban political scientist Esteban Morales said Diaz-Canel would benefit from Raul’s continued presence at the head of the communist party.

“Raul has the experience, the leadership, and the recognition to advise the government and provide coherence,” Morales said.

Even if Cuba will be without a Castro as leader for the first time since Fidel Castro led the 1959 revolution, little is likely to change immediately with the accession of Diaz-Canel.