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      The Continuity of Cuba's Socialist Revolution & Independence
      Meet Cuba's New President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez

      By Tamara Hansen

      Since winning its independence from Great Britain at the end of the American Revolution in 1783, the United States government has set its sights, not on liberating the Americas, but instead on playing a reactionary role in attempting to dominate the region and its peoples. As Cuba fought valiantly for its independence from Spanish colonialism, the United States intervened with the Spanish- American War in 1898. When the war was over, Spain withdrew from Cuba, and an American occupying force remained for three years until Cuba’s formal “independence” on May 20, 1902. It was a so-called “independence,” that did not mean Cuba was independent at all!

      In fact, before withdrawing their occupation troops, the U.S. government forced the new Cuban government to agree to the Platt Amendment. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “the Platt Amendment […] specified the conditions for American withdrawal. Among those conditions were (1) the guarantee that Cuba would not transfer any of its lands to any foreign power but the United States, (2) limitations on Cuba’s negotiations with other countries, (3) the establishment of a U.S. naval base in Cuba, and (4) the U.S. right to intervene in Cuba to preserve Cuban independence.” May 2018 marks 116 years of the Platt Amendment, which is the supposed legal cover the U.S. continues to use for its illegal occupation of Guantanamo Bay with its torture prison and naval base. Cuba has been demanding the U.S. return Guantanamo to Cuba since the triumph of the revolution on January 1, 1959.

      Cuba truly won its independence in 1959 with the triumph of the revolution. The revolutionary government led by Comandante Fidel Castro expropriated companies and land owned by wealthy Cubans and American corporations, which were stealing the resources of the Cuban people to line their own pockets. The United States government sought to overthrow the Cuban revolution and regain its profit-making industries and lands with the Bay of Pigs invasion on April 17, 1961.

      On that day, over 1400 right-wing Cuban mercenaries, who had fled Cuba after the revolution, invaded the island with the backing of the U.S. government and President John F. Kennedy. However, due to the popularity of the revolution and the exceptional organization of the counter-offensive led by Fidel Castro, the revolutionary Cuban people and government defeated the well-funded invasion in less than 72 hours. The Bay of Pigs invasion was the first major defeat of U.S. imperialism in the Americas and left a mark on the American government, who promised to invade Cuba again. Nevertheless, over the past 57 years since the attack, the U.S. has not dared a direct invasion of Cuba again.

      On April 19, 2018, as Cuba celebrated the 57th anniversary of their victory at the Bay of Pigs and the defeat of U.S. imperialism on its shores, Cuba’s newly elected National Assembly met for the first time in Havana. The National Assembly's major task was electing the country’s new President, as well as Cuba’s First Vice President, and five Vice Presidents, as well as the leadership of the Assembly itself.

      Elected by Cuba’s 605 member National Assembly were:

      • Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of Cuba
      • Salvador Valdés Mesa, First Vice President of Cuba
      • Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, Vice President of Cuba
      • Beatriz Jhonson, Vice President of Cuba
      • Inés María Chapman, Vice President of Cuba
      • Gladys María Bejerano Portela, Vice President of Cuba • Roberto Tomás Morales Ojeda, Vice President of Cuba
      • Esteban Lazo Hernández, President of Cuba’s National Assembly
      • Ana Maria Mary Machado, Vice President of Cuba’s National Assembly
      • Miriam Brito Sarroca, Secretary of Cuba’s National Assembly

      This executive, like the newly elected National Assembly, is a diverse group of Cubans.

      Meet Cuba’s new President, Miguel Díaz- Canel

      Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez is 58 years old and was born after the triumph of the Cuban revolution, like 530 out of the 605 members of the new National Assembly. As many news outlets have reported, his presidency marks a generational shift in the leadership of the Cuban revolution.

      Díaz-Canel is a well-established figure in Cuba for many years. He has been Cuba’s First Vice President since 2013, as well as a member of the National Assembly and Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba.

      He is also known for previous leadership roles in the Union of Young Communists of Cuba, the Cuban Communist Party in the provinces of Villa Clara and Holguin, as well as Minister of Education.

      Díaz-Canel attained an electrical engineering degree in 1982 and then fulfilled his military service. He was also part of an internationalist mission in Nicaragua.

      In their April 16, 2018 article, “Who is Miguel Díaz-Canel, Cuba’s likely new president? A look from those who know him”, NBC News interviewed many Cubans, mostly living in the U.S., who knew or grew up with Díaz-Canel. Many of the interviews are positive but tinged with mainstream media’s overt bias against Cuba and the Cuban revolution. Interestingly, they interviewed Ramón Silverio, the creator of a famous LGBTQ+ friendly nightclub in Santa Clara, El Mejunje. According to NBC, Silverio says he did establish El Mejunje in 1984 “to provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ people, as well as artists, bohemians and rockers.” Silverio recalled to NBC how Díaz- Canel was one of the community leaders who helped keep the space open, even taking his two young children to the kid-themed events held at El Mejunje. Silverio explained, “He was one of those people who went to the theatre because he loved it, not because he had to comply with a political task.”

      While NBC makes El Mejunje sounds like kind of an underground space, it is one of the most popular nightclubs in Santa Clara, one of Cuba’s largest cities. As an activist from Canada on the 2008 Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade, I went there several times. Each night has a different theme, including their weekly LGBTQ+ night, Sunday afternoons for seniors and families, as well as ongoing cultural activities both at night and during the day. It is a staple of the city, for people from all walks of life. Far from being an isolated voice in Cuba, Ramón Silverio received a prize from the President of Cuba’s National Centre for Sex Education (Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual - CENESEX) and Raul Castro’s daughter, Dr. Mariela Castro Espín. As well, the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba - UNEAC) regularly supports and praises his cultural work. Either way, Silverio is very positive about his interactions with Díaz-Canel saying, h e i s “advanced in his thinking.”

      Miguel Díaz-Canel in International Headlines

      The mainstream bourgeois media across the U.S. and Canada are mostly spinning the same tales about Cuba and Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez. First, they explain that Raul Castro is staying as the head of the Communist Party of Cuba, and thus Díaz-Canel will hold little to no power.

      Second, they explain that Díaz-Canel will be confronting some immediate challenges, mostly related to Cuba’s economy related to what they refer to as “stagnation” and the challenge of unifying Cuba’s dual currencies, the CUC and the Peso. They also cite the deterioration of U.S.-Cuba relations under President Trump.

      Third, they call Díaz-Canel names, like “right-hand man to outgoing leader Raul Castro,” “bureaucrat,” “little-known,” “an uncharismatic figure,” and “ a problem-solving party loyalist.”

      It seems few media outlets paid much attention to the issues Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel presented to the Cuban people and the world in his first formal address at the National Assembly on April 19, 2018.

      Miguel Díaz-Canel’s first speech as President of Cuba

      First, he responds to the discussion about who holds power in Cuba, by speaking about the responsibility of all members of the National Assembly to the Cuban people that elected them. He said, “If someone wanted to see a microcosm of Cuba in a group of citizens, due to its age, racial, gender and occupation composition, it would be enough to look and study the composition of our National Assembly.” He continued the “representation of women, blacks and mestizos, young people and senior citizens who occupy decisionmaking positions in the highest levels of government, almost is in the same proportion as statistically make up the nation. However, the most important thing is not, how much we resemble the country. What we can not forget for a second, as of this moment, the commitment we have made to the people and the future.” Then he concluded, “All deputies, the leadership of the Assembly, and the members of the Councils of State and Minister - our main reason for being is the systematic connection with the population, which forces us to deepen our analysis of the problems that concern the whole of society and the daily life of Cubans,” and “fostering a broad and sincere debate and encouraging all possible ways to solve or mitigate the impact of the problems with the participation of those involved, either because they are affected or because they have the possibility to solve them.”

      He also acknowledges the responsibility of the role he is taking on, “I am aware of the concerns and expectations at the moment like this, but I know the strength and wisdom of the people, the leadership of the Party, the ideas of Fidel, the presence of Raúl and Machado."

      At the same time, he did not shy away from the important role that Raul Castro will continue to play in the Cuban government. He said, “Raul [Castro] is a political leader who has constantly promoted debate for the improvement of partisan work, connected to the people, with ears listening to the ground, called on us with integrity to prove that “Yes, we can.” [...] Knowing the popular feeling, I affirm to this Assembly, the supreme organ of State power, that the comrade General of the Army Raul Castro Ruz as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, will continue leading the most important decisions for the present and the future of the nation.”

      Second, in response to those talking about Cuba’s economic challenges he explained, “In this Legislature there will be no room for those who aspire to capitalist restoration. This Legislature will defend the Revolution and will continue the improvement of socialism. To face the difficulties at the internal level is an opportunity to emphasize that the priorities are defined in the documents approved in the 7th Congress of the [Communist] Party, backed by the Parliament, after being subjected to a broad process of popular consultation. They recognize that politicalideological work, the struggle for peace, unity and ideological firmness, closely linked to the development of the national economy, ensuring the conscious, active and committed participation of the majority of the population in the process of updating the economic and social model, is the fundamental mission. It is up to us to simply enforce it and carry it forward.”

      While Díaz-Canel did not expressly call out the United States, the first meeting of the National Assembly was expressly called on the historic date of the victory at the Bay of Pigs. Also, Díaz-Canel stated, “No country has resisted for so many years without surrendering to the type of economic, commercial, military, political and media siege that Cuba has faced. But there is no miracle in this feat. There is, in the first place, an authentic Revolution that emerged from the depths of the people, a consistent leadership that never put itself above the people.”

      These words give us an idea of who Díaz- Canel is and what he represents, more than any of the petty comments made to slander him. Díaz-Canel has been elected for a 5-year term, and according to Cuban law, he can be elected for a maximum of a second 5-year term before he will need to pass the torch to a new President. Of course, more important than his words will be his actions. Many in Cuba and around the world are looking forward to understanding the role his leadership will play in the developments of the Cuban socialist revolution.

      Elián González comments to CNN

      CNN recently interviewed Elián González, who became famous in 1999 when his mother kidnapped him from his father and fled Cuba by boat to Miami. The boat capsized, killing Elián’s mother and the 5-year-old was rescued by a Florida fisherman and delivered to his mother’s family in Miami. The family in Miami refused to return Elián to his father in Cuba. After a huge battle for the return of Elián, in which Fidel Castro and the Cuban people mobilized across the island alongside Elián’s father, the U.S. government intervened to return him to Cuba. Elián is now 24 years old. He explained to CNN about life in Cuba today, explaining, “Many people say ‘when the Castros’ mandate ends’ but I don’t believe the ideology will end; not what they have taught us, nor the ideas of the Castros. […] Cuba is more than its government.” As someone who has been offered money and status to defect from Cuba and become a member of the opposition, Elián González remains a crucial voice for young Cubans who are defending the Cuban socialist revolution and its important gains for poor and working people.

      Of course, the leadership of those who fought in and won the Cuban revolution will never be replaced in the minds and hearts of revolutionary Cubans. However, as coming generations take up the responsibility of continuing to build and develop Cuba’s socialist project, they will face the same (and possibly deepening) challenges that were faced by the leadership that came before them. However, Cubans continue to take to the streets, to mobilize in their communities and their popular mass institutions, to defend the gigantic gains they have made so far. The future is bright and full of new advances of this revolution of workers and farmers “by the humble, with the humble, and for the humble” as Fidel Castro said once.

      Follow Tamara Hansen on Twitter: @THans01

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