What’s Next for Cuba as Castro Hands Over Power

Apr 11, 2018 | 09:00 GMT

Raul Castro, president of Cuba, talks with Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana in 2017.

Cuban President Raul Castro (left) talks with first Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel during the year-end parliamentary session in Havana on Dec. 21, 2017. Castro will step down in April 2018 after elections to choose his successor.

(JAIME BLEZ/AFP/Getty Images)


  • Miguel Diaz-Canel, who appears set to take power from President Raul Castro on April 19, will emulate his predecessor in retaining tight control over the island's political system and economy. 
  • Because of Venezuela's severe decline, Cuba will seek to find another key source of foreign revenue, such as U.S. tourists, to prop up its ailing economy.
  • Havana will try to overcome the U.S. trade embargo, which prevents more tourists from visiting. But if the embargo disappears, the inflow of revenue and the factionalization created by a more inclusive political system will drive instability.

The end of an era is approaching in Cuba. Twelve years after taking the reins of power from his brother Fidel, President Raul Castro will hand over control to a hand-picked successor from the island's Politburo -- most likely Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel -- on April 19. But even if Cuba will be without a Castro as leader for the first time since 1959, little is likely to change immediately with Diaz-Canel's accession. Real political power will continue to lie with the country's armed forces, which control most of the major economic conglomerates. Still, some changes will be inescapable, as the government goes in search of more tourist dollars to guarantee it a modicum of economic survival. In the end, economic and potential political changes will corrode the Communist Party's power in the coming years, ushering in political instability that the island has not seen for nearly six decades of...

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