FILE - In this May 5, 2014 file photo, Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education and daughter of Cuba’s President Raul Castro, smiles before a press conference in Havana, Cuba. Mariela Castro, one of the highest-profile members of Cuba‚Äôs ruling family said Wednesday, May 3 2017, that the country could be surprised by the person who succeeds her father as president. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes, File)

Raul Castro’s daughter: His successor may surprise Cubans

Observers widely expect him to be succeeded by First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel

HAVANA — One of the highest-profile members of Cuba’s ruling family said Wednesday that the country could be surprised by the person who succeeds her father as president.

Mariela Castro’s uncle Fidel led Cuba for a half century before he was succeeded as president by her father, Raul Castro, who has said he plans to step down in February.

International and domestic observers widely expect him to be succeeded by First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel, a 57-year-old career Communist Party official whose low-wattage public appearances have left many Cubans unconvinced of his ability to be the first top Cuban leader from outside the Castro family since 1959.

When asked about the succession process, Mariela Castro said: “Sometimes you’re going in one direction and suddenly you look over here and go, ‘Wow, how interesting, I hadn’t focused on this person.’”

“There are always surprises,” she concluded.

Mariela Castro is a gay-rights advocate, member of Cuba’s National Assembly and head of the country’s institute of sex education. She has long been one of Cuba’s most outspoken public figures, and her statements are widely perceived to bear her father’s imprimatur.

Recent speculation about alternate presidential candidates has focused on Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, a forceful public speaker who has represented Cuba on the international stage for eight years. Rodriguez has taken on a slightly higher profile in recent months, including an unusual article in state media last week apologizing to the family of a Cuban who died on government business in Venezuela last May.

The daughter of the dead man, Nicanor Torres Ochoa, had complained to the state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde that the family had not received his death certificate, echoing thousands of Cubans’ frustration with the country’s intractable Soviet-model bureaucracy. On Saturday, the paper published an unexpected response from Rodriguez assuring readers the problem had been resolved, saying the Foreign Ministry was reviewing its procedures to avoid a repeat of the problem, and apologizing to the family in the name of the state institutions involved.

Such lengthy apologies to citizens are virtually unheard of in Cuba, particularly from high-ranking government officials.

Despite such subtle changes in public profile, there are no indications so far that Diaz-Canel has lost his position as the unstated front-runner to be Cuba’s next president. However, Raul Castro’s departure from the presidency creates unprecedented opportunities for surprising changes to Cuba’s political structure.

As supreme national leader, Fidel Castro simultaneously held a variety of roles as head of state, government and Communist Party institutions.

Raul Castro inherited that arrangement despite the fact that Cuba’s constitution does not stipulate such a total concentration of power. Raul Castro’s retirement as president opens the possibility that his responsibilities could be handed over to more than one figure, creating at least a nominal separation of powers for the first time since the first years of the Cuban Revolution.

___

Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein

Michael Weissenstein, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Canadians told to brace for a ‘classic’ Canadian winter with lots of snow

TORONTO — One of Canada’s high profile weather forecasters is warning Canadians… Continue reading

Nebraska set to vote today on fate of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline

CALGARY — Five commissioners in Nebraska are set to vote today on… Continue reading

Hippie cult leader Charles Manson dead at 83

LOS ANGELES — Charles Manson, the hippie cult leader who became the… Continue reading

Tie new affordable housing money to outcomes, former watchdog tells Liberals

OTTAWA — Parliament’s first budget watchdog is warning the federal government to… Continue reading

WATCH: Christmas Wish Breakfast toy donations almost double

All toys donated Sunday will be given to the Red Deer Christmas Bureau and Red Deer Salvation Army

VIDEO: Replay Red Deer: Nov. 19

Watch news highlights from the week of Nov. 13

CP Holiday train to stop in Ponoka for another year

The popular train will feature entertainment from Colin James and Emma-Lee

Kittens rescued after allegedly being tossed from vehicle

Couple finds abandoned kittens new home through Facebook

VIDEO: ‘Party bus’ goes up in flames in Vancouver

Fire crews responded to the late night blaze

Chicken crosses B.C. road, stops traffic

Rooster makes early morning commuters wait in Maple Ridge

Red Deerian honours her brother who died in a motorcycle collision

Houaida Haddad is encouraging Red Deer residents to donate blood

Red Deer County firefighters to be recognized for Waterton help

RCMP brass will give formal recognition Monday

Ron James tries to lighten humanity’s load through humour

The comedian returns to Red Deer for shows Dec. 1 and 2

100+ Women Red Deer donate to Christmas Bureau

About $14,000 will help with Christmas hampers and toys

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month