Cuba has a new president who is not a Castro.
The Cuban National Assembly on Thursday elected Miguel Diaz-Canel as the new president of the country.
The spokeswoman said the US was not surprised by the outcome but "nevertheless disappointed".
"I think that with the leadership coming into the hands of Miguel Diaz-Canel, the latent increasing desire on the part, especially of the Cuban youth, to deepen the revolution, to make sure that the United States does not make any inroads into Cuba, this will further strengthen with Miguel Diaz-Canel as president of Cuba", August said. He's not about to start transforming Cuba.
State media went into overdrive Wednesday with a single message: Cuba's system is continuing in the face of change. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, was recently interviewed for an article on Miguel Díaz-Canel, the successor to Raúl Castro in Cuba. Castro said he foresees the white-haired electronics engineer serving two five-year terms as leader of the Cuban government, and taking the helm of the Communist Party, the country's ultimate authority, when Castro leaves the powerful position in 2021.
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Diaz-Canel said in his speech Thursday that he wanted to continue the country's revolution and was not going to cede to demands from the US about politics on the island, where the government has suppressed freedom of speech and jailed dissidents.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who sits on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, insisted that the Castro regime remains in place despite the new leader.
Still, the Soviet-style command economy employs three of every four Cuban workers and produces little, while private sector growth has been largely frozen since a year ago. No less profoundly, Thursday's selection, indeed his elevation from the office of Vice-President, marks the end of the Castro era, a transition that is said to have been greeted by the average Cuban with a shrug. He said there would be no compromise in Cuba's foreign policy but in a repetition of a long-held stance by Havana, he said he would hold dialogue with anybody who treated Cuba as an equal.
CGTN's Michael Voss reports from Havana. A high-ranking government official told me Cuba would follow the Chinese model, opening up the economy but maintaining political control. The nonpartisan Freedom House ranks it "Not Free", without a free press, economic, or political freedoms. Human Rights Watch said the number of arbitrary arrests of independent journalists and human rights activists decreased in 2017, but were still intolerably high, with thousands of activists and journalists detained.
Diaz-Canel appears to support the party line. In a video leaked to the media a year ago, he notably defended Cuba's academics and bloggers from criticism from the party hardliners, but also pledged to silence certain media outlets and labeled some European embassies as outposts of subversion.
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Raul Castro expressed Cuba's solidarity with countries subjected to those attacks, which seek to reverse processes of change, such as in Venezuela and Bolivia. For the foreseeable future, Raul is the party leader.
Mr Castro left the presidency after 12 years in office when the National Assembly approved 57-year-old Mr Diaz-Canel's nomination as the candidate for the top government position.
The chamber erupted into applause as the results were read out, with numerous delegates smiling, and shaking hands warmly with Castro and Diaz-Canel.
He was elected by the members of the National Assembly, all 605 of whom were voted in in March after standing unopposed. "Relations with Cuba are only good when they help the Cuban people if they help to strengthen the dictatorship - to solidify the dictatorship - then they are obviously counterproductive". While the new president is legally commander-in-chief, Raul's influence is imbued throughout the institution that he led as defence minister for almost half a century.
Much has to happen before Cuba undergoes real change.
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