February of 2018 could be the first time in nearly 60 years that Cuba’s had a president not named Castro.
Raul Castro, Cuba’s 84-year-old leader was the second of two brothers to assume the presidency, taking office in 2008. After his first 5-year term, Castro told Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power in 2013 that he plans to resign from office on 24 Feb., 2018—exactly one year from today.
Though he intends to hand off the presidency, Castro has yet to confirm a subsequent resignation from leadership in the national Communist Party, meaning he could feasibly retain much of his power. Nonetheless, Cuba has big changes ahead.
In theory, any citizen has the opportunity to serve as President, but as in most societies, the real candidate pool is quite shallow. Right now, all eyes are on 57-year-old First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel. A fervent loyalist to Fidel Castro’s models of rule and education, and Raul Castro’s right-hand-man of 5 years, Diaz-Canel is most likely to receive the presidency.
Despite Castro’s word, rumor has it that with shaky US-Cuban relations, the current president may fail to relinquish his power, opting instead to keep Cuba’s political sphere as stable as possible. New Cuban leadership immediately following the United States’ change of Administration may prove too much uncertainty for international relations. Again, much rests on U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign policy decisions.
With the clock winding down on the Castro family’s rule, the US waits anxiously alongside Cuba to see what this new chapter in history will bring.