New leader of Cuba breaks from past with public appearances

Associated Press


A month into office, the first non-Castro to lead Cuba since 1959 has made clear that he’ll be operating far more like a conventional politician than the spotlight-shy general who selected him or the revolutionary comandante who led Cuba for 47 years before that.

Miguel Diaz-Canel has set a whirlwind pace of public appearances – promising improvement in trash pickup and public transportation and inspecting state cafeterias and health clinics. He’s now the public face of the government’s response to an air crash that killed 111 people.

That’s a change from Raul Castro’s tendency to lead from behind the scenes. But he’s not trying to imitate Fidel, either. Diaz-Canel’s appearances remain tightly managed. Unlike the voluble Fidel Castro, the new president rarely takes questions or breaks from brief prepared remarks.

“Diaz-Canel is putting himself before the public so the public can see him. Many of the places where he shown up or the issues he’s examined have to do with people’s everyday concerns,” said Jose Raul Viera, a retired vice minister of foreign relations. “It’s putting him in contact with people’s everyday lives. His focus hasn’t been ideological declarations, but rather practical things.”

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