The Dictatorship Remains Intact with a New President in Cuba

Even with a new president, the Castro clan appears to have a firm grip on power well into the future. A real transition will begin when the Cuban people are able to choose their own leaders in open, free, and fair internationally supervised democratic elections. Only then will Cuba experience a hopeful change. World democracies and defenders of freedom are called upon to reject false promises and continue demanding this transformation, supporting the Cuban people in claiming their rightful freedoms.


By Maria C. Werlau and RJ Galliano l April 24, 2018

Raul Castro raises the hand of the newly elected Cuban President following the National Assembly vote in Havana on April 19, 2018

The selection of Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez to the presidency of Cuba – only to replace General Raúl Castro in that role – is little more than a nominal succession in the totalitarian system.

Castro gave a lengthy speech before the National Assembly explaining how Díaz-Canel had been long groomed for a leadership position and his assumption of the role of president precisely planned.

In his remarks, Díaz-Canel confirmed the nominal succession saying, “Raúl will continue in front of the political vanguard. He remains our First Secretary, heading the revolutionary cause…compañero Raúl, General of the Armed Forces, will lead all decisions for the present and future of the nation.”

According to Granma, the Cuban Communist Party newspaper, Díaz-Canel “was a leader of the Young Communist League (UJC), undertook a mission in Nicaragua, served as First Secretary of the Party in the provinces of Villa Clara and Holguín, as Minister of Education, a vice president of the Council of Ministers and first vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers of Cuba.”

As Raúl Castro remains head of the Cuban Communist Party, his son, Col. Alejandro Castro Espín, retains a high position in the military heading the “National Defense and Security Commission, a newly created entity of which little is known, but which has control over ministries and security forces within the country,” the Miami Herald reported. Col. Espín, however, has not been nominated to the National Assembly, precluding him from becoming president at this time. His sister, Mariela Castro Espín, is a member of the National Assembly.

Consequently, Cuba continues to commit grave human rights violations against its citizens and deny them their fundamental rights.

What the Cuban people need is freedom to exercise all their individual and collective rights, including of self-determination, of life and security of the individual, of free association and expression, to private property and all other economic and labor rights, to freely practice their religion, and to establish and access free press and other means of mass communication and information.

The repressive Cuban government apparatus, including the political police, must be dismantled and all state agencies must cease committing crimes against the defenseless citizenry. All persecution for ideological or political reasons must cease and persons deprived of their liberty in contradiction with their fundamental rights must be released, including those held for so-called pre-criminal social dangerousness and economic crimes.

All oppressive laws and regulations must be repealed, and the Cuban Constitution and all laws must conform to the state’s international human rights’ commitments. A rule of law and an independent judiciary must be established, and a comprehensive process of transitional justice be put in place.

Only if sovereignty emanates from the people is a government’s authority legitimate.

Even with a new president, the Castro clan appears to have a firm grip on power well into the future. A real transition will begin when the Cuban people are able to choose their own leaders in open, free, and fair internationally supervised democratic elections. Only then will Cuba experience a hopeful change. World democracies and defenders of freedom are called upon to reject false promises and continue demanding this transformation, supporting the Cuban people in claiming their rightful freedoms.


Maria Werlau, founder and Executive Director of the non-profit project Cuba Archive, is a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the online-conservative-journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research. RJ Galliano founded the Institute for U.S. Cuba Relations and was editor of the U.S. Cuba Policy Report, archived at the Library of Congress. He is a director at SFPPR and Editor-in-Chief of SFPPR News & Analysis

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