Cuba National Assembly choses country’s next president

Miguel Díaz-Canel will succeed Raúl Castro as the president of Cuba. (Photo public domain)

Miguel Díaz-Canel has been chosen to succeed Raúl Castro as Cuba’s next president.

Members of the Cuban National Assembly on Wednesday overwhelmingly backed Díaz-Canel, the country’s first vice president and the only person nominated to succeed Castro. Díaz-Canel will be Cuba’s president who is from outside the Castro family since the 1959 revolution that brought Raúl Castro’s brother, Fidel Castro, to power.

Fidel Castro died in 2016.

The National Assembly on Thursday officially announced Díaz-Canel will become president.

Raúl Castro will remain the head of Cuba’s Communist Party. His daughter, Mariela Castro, who spearheads LGBT-specific issues as director of the country’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), is a member of the National Assembly.

Some of Mariela Castro’s Cuban supporters who attended a speech that she gave last May in Havana to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia described her as “our next president.” Mariela Castro downplayed speculation over whether she would succeed her father.

New president supported LGBT cultural center

Díaz-Canel, 57, was born in Villa Clara Province.

A source in the province with whom the Washington Blade spoke on Wednesday said Díaz-Canel recently defended Mariela Castro’s doctoral thesis that focused on the “social integration” of transgender people. The source also pointed out that Díaz-Canel supported El Mejunje, an LGBT cultural center and nightclub in the city of Santa Clara, when he was secretary of the Communist Party in the province.

El Mejunje is an LGBT cultural center and nightclub in Santa Clara, Cuba. Miguel Díaz-Canel, who will succeed Raúl Castro as Cuba’s next president, supported El Mejunje when he was secretary of the Communist Party in Villa Clara Province. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The selection of Díaz-Canel to succeed Raúl Castro took place less than a month before CENESEX will hold a series of events in Havana and in the city of Pinar del Río that will commemorate IDAHOT.

The Obama administration in 2014 normalized relations between the U.S. and Cuba. President Trump last June reinstated some travel and trade regulations and reaffirmed his administration’s support of the U.S. embargo against the Communist island, even though Trump’s company and several of his associates reportedly violated it in 1998 and again in late 2012 or early 2013.

Díaz-Canel will also take power against the backdrop of a stagnant economy and continued criticism over Cuba’s human rights record.

Victor Manuel Dueñas — an activist from Villa Clara Province who worked independently of Mariela Castro and CENESEX — and his cousin are among the group of LGBT Cubans who traveled to Amsterdam in January and asked the Dutch government for asylum. Other independent LGBT activists with whom the Blade has spoken in recent years maintain they face discrimination and even arrest if they publicly criticize Mariela Castro, her father or the Cuban government.
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