HAVANA – Cuban First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel backed on Sunday the “continuity” of socialism and the Revolution in the face of the generational transfer of power that will begin starting in February 2018, when the island’s current leader, Raul Castro, steps down from the presidency.
“I can’t conceive of ruptures in our country. I think that, above all, there must be continuity. There are many very young people proposed as (municipal) delegates” in Sunday’s election, Diaz-Canel – one of the key potential heirs to Castro as president – told reporters after voting in the municipal elections being held nationwide on Sunday.
When asked about the possibility that he might be the country’s new president within a few months, Diaz-Canel avoided commenting on that subject but said that in the future “there will be presidents in Cuba who always defend the Revolution and who will be comrades that come from among the people, who are elected by the people.”
More than eight million Cubans are eligible to vote on Sunday for municipal representatives, the equivalent of city councilors, and many of these officials will be candidates for the National Assembly in the coming months.
The elections mark the start of the electoral process that will culminate in the selection of a new parliament that on Feb. 24, 2018, will have to ratify the new president in office, at the behest of the Council of State, a move that will implement a generational handoff of power after almost 60 years of rule by the Castro brothers, Raul and – before him – the late Fidel.
These elections are being held on the day after the first anniversary of Fidel Castro’s death, and Diaz-Canel said that it constitutes “an election day that, for the revolutionary people, is laden with emotion and passion.”
“Today, we’re holding a vote for the Revolution, the homeland and socialism,” a vote that will send “a message to those who want to implement change or impose conditions that (the Cubans) are a people who will not yield, who have defended their sovereignty and independence for a long time,” the VP said.
Regarding the renewed tensions with the US, which recently imposed new economic sanctions on the island, Diaz-Canel said that Cuba remains open to maintaining relations with that country, but “without pre-conditions” and based on “bilateralism, equality, respect and cooperation.”
“That future (relationship) does not depend on us, it depends on them, it depends on the attitude that they adopt,” he said, criticizing the change in the stance of the Donald Trump administration, which “has intensified the blockade and halted the advancement” in relations started by the government of former President Barack Obama.
In Sunday’s election, 27,221 candidates are vying for the municipal assembly posts, of whom 35 percent are women and 19 percent are young people.