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Miguel Diaz-Canel opens a new chapter for Cuba

Miguel Diaz-Canel, the former electrical engineer set to become Cuba’s first non-Castro president.

Cuba’s parliament will elect Miguel Diaz-Canel as its new president, ending the Castro family’s long rule of nearly 60 years. The National Candidature Commission (NCC) nominated Diaz-Canel, first vice president of the Council of State, after the 57-year-old’s name was proposed by the 604 National Assembly lawmakers to head the country.

Miguel Diaz-Canel will take Raul Castro’s place as the government works to ensure the survival of one of the world’s last remaining communist states.

Miguel Diaz-Canel, Castro’s first vice president, was unanimously selected by the National Assembly and is expected to be formally appointed president. Diaz-Canel a former governor of two provinces and former education minister, will be Cuba’s first nonmilitary ruler since 1952.

The 86-year-old Raul Castro will remain head of the Communist party. As a result, Castro will remain the most powerful person in Cuba for the time being.

Who is Miguel Díaz-Canel

Miguel Diaz-Canel was born in April 1960, little over a year after Fidel Castro was first sworn in as prime minister. He studied electrical engineering and began his political career in his early 20s as a member of the Young Communist League in Santa Clara.

After graduating from college in the central city of Santa Clara, Díaz-Canel performed his three years of obligatory military service and jumped right into party politics.

In 1987, he joined the Young Communists’ Union and started rising through the ranks. By 1994, he was named first party secretary in Villa Clara province. Neighbors say he didn’t move to the larger homes provided by the government to people in that position.

In 2003, he was named first secretary of the more populous province of Holguin in eastern Cuba, and was also named to the Communist Party’s Politburo, one of its highest decision-making bodies.

In 2013, Castro named Díaz-Canel first vice president of the Council of State, placing him in line to replace Castro.

Díaz-Canel maintained a separate career track throughout his time in politics. After finishing his military service, he worked as an engineering professor at the University of Santa Clara. Years later, he was named Cuba’s minister of education.

Cuban media fawned over his approach to that role, boasting that he was one of the first high-ranking government officials to bring a laptop to government meetings, and pushing for more technology in Cuba’s under-funded classrooms.

Cuba’s state-run newspaper, Granma, routinely publishes stories of Díaz-Canel’s visits to schools around the country. During a visit to schools in Santiago de Cuba, where the remains of Fidel Castro were interred in 2016, Díaz-Canel called on teachers to carry on one of Castro’s legacies by ensuring that free education endured.

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