Who Is Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez?

By Sandy Marks, June 26, 2018 | A good question because little-known, if at all, by the people of the United States, as of April 19, 2018 Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez is now the newly and duly elected President of the Councils of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba.

His election signals the transfer of government to the generation born after the Triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1959, who have taken up the mission to defend the revolution and continue the work of building a socialist society in Cuba.

The democratic election process in Cuba spanned several months time and culminated in Diaz-Canel’s election to head of State. The process began with nationwide Cuban elections that resulted in 605 newly elected and re-elected, deputies to represent the people of the country to the National Assembly of People’s Power, whose deputies then elected from its ranks the members of its highest body, the Councils of State and Ministers, who then at its first session elected Díaz-Canel as its new President.

Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez was born on April 20, 1960, a year after the Triumph of the Revolution in Cuba. He grew up as a product of and beneficiary of the growing fruits of that revolution. He also grew up in the struggle to defend that revolution from outside forces intent on destroying it, including the U.S. blockade, which Cuba has endured Díaz-Canel’s whole life.

His birthplace is in Villa Clara Province. He went to school in Cuba to become an electronic engineer and earned a Masters in Management. Education in Cuba, in contrast to the United States, is free to all, including university.

As a young man, Díaz-Canel was part of the Communist Youth Union and spent 10 years in Nicaragua as part of an international mission; he graduated from the National Defense College; he was an officer of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), he became a member of the Party Central Committee in 1991 at the beginning of the Special Period when the Soviet Union, Cuba’s primary source of oil, industrial products, wheat and credit collapsed. From 1994 to 2003, during the most severe stages of the Special Period when hunger was a fact of life throughout the country and the U.S. tightened the blockade with actions against third-party nations; and while Miami-based terrorists conducted a campaign of terror against Cuba, he was the provincial Party leader of Villa Clara Province. Later he spent six years in Holguin with the Political Bureau.

He has been a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) since 2003. In 2009 he became Minister of Higher Education in the government and was promoted in 2013 to the first vice-presidency of the Councils of State and Ministers.

What does Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez represent? Let him tell us in his own words. What follows is the full text of his speech delivered on April 19, 2018 to the National Assembly of the Peoples Power on the 60th Anniversary of Cuba’s first defeat of U.S. attack at Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs).

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Speech by compañero Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Councils of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, in the Constituent Session of the 9th Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power, Havana International Conference Center, April 19, 2018, “Year 60 of the Revolution”

Compañero deputy, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba,

Compatriots:

I come to speak on behalf of all Cubans, who today begin a new mandate at the service of a nation whose history makes us proud; not only those born in this land, but millions of children of America and the world that love and respect it as their own.

I do so with all the responsibility that an act of this nature entails and with the awareness that we are not inaugurating just another legislature.

Martí said that “pompous words are unnecessary to speak of sublime men.” And this is the case now, when I fulfill, with honor and emotion, the mandate of our people to dedicate the first thought to the historic generation that, with exemplary dedication and humility, accompanies us in this hour of pressing challenges in which Cuba expects that we be like them, capable of victoriously fighting all the battles that await us.

The presence of Raúl, Machado, Ramiro, Guillermo and other Heroes of the Republic, as deputies of the Legislature that takes office today, is not due to a, more than deserved, tribute for the work done. The Army General and First Secretary of the Party was the candidate to receive the most votes in the general elections, just as the Second Secretary and the Comandantes of the Revolution, also Heroes of Labor of the Republic of Cuba, were among those who received the highest number of votes.

They ennoble this hall and offer us the opportunity, by embracing them, to embrace living history.

More than half a century of slander and dark invitations to generational rupture and discouragement in the face of difficulties, have not been able to tear down the columns of the temple of our faith: the Revolution of Fidel and the Centennial Generation of Martí continues in its 60th year with the dignity of its founders intact and ennobled by having been able to do in each moment what each moment demanded.

With the constitution of the 9th Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the revolutionary electoral process that the Cuban people have led in recent months comes to an end, reaffirming its eminently democratic nature and, at the same time, conscious of its profound historic significance.

The people, exercising their civil right, have proposed, nominated, and elected their representatives in the different government bodies based on their identification with them, their merit, and ability to represent communities, social sectors, collective interests, without publicity campaigns subject to the power of money, without politicking or fraud, corruption or demagoguery.

The election has been the result of collective wishes, without any of those elected harboring personal aspirations. Citizens have honored humble, hard-working, modest people as their genuine representatives.

This is an election that emerges from the people, who at the same time control its administration, thus participating in the decision making and in the implementation of approved policies. And although we have done so many times in the last 40 years, we can affirm that this election process concluding today has become a resounding victory for the unity of the Cuban people, and an expression of their commitment to defend the revolutionary work in times of uncertainty for the majority of the planet’s inhabitants, whose wishes do not count when applying policies that minimize their rights and curtail their conquests.

To that trust that the people place in us with their vote, there is only one way to reciprocate: acting, creating, and working tirelessly, to respond to their demands and needs, in a permanent and close bond with our humble, generous, and noble people.

If someone wanted to see Cuba as a group of citizens, according to their age, racial, gender, and occupational composition, it would be enough to view and study the membership of our Assembly and the representation of women, Black and mixed race Cubans, young people and senior citizens, who occupy decision-making positions at the highest levels of government, almost in the same proportion as the statistics that define the nation.

The most important thing is not, however, how much we resemble the country we are. What we cannot forget for even a second, as of this moment, is the commitment that we acquire to the people and to the future. All deputies, the leadership of the Assembly, the members of the Councils of State and Ministers, have as our primary raison d’être a systematic link with the population, which obliges us to deepen the analysis of the problems that concern society as a whole and the everyday lives of Cuban men and women, fostering a broad and sincere debate about them, and encouraging all possible ways to solve or mitigate their impact with the participation of those involved, either because they are afflicted by or because they have the ability to solve them.

Compatriots:

Two years ago today, in the closure of the 7th Party Congress, the Army General told us that his generation would hand over, and I quote: “the banners of the Revolution and Socialism to new leaders, without the slightest trace of sadness or pessimism, with the pride of having fulfilled one’s duty, convinced that they will be able to continue and magnify the Revolution’s work, to which great effort was devoted, and life itself for many generations of compatriots.”

This means, among many reasons, that the mandate given by the people to this Legislature is to provide continuity to the Cuban Revolution at a crucial historic moment, which will be marked by all that we manage to advance in the updating of the economic and social model, perfecting and strengthening our work in all spheres of national life.

I assume the responsibility for which I have been elected with the conviction that all Cuban revolutionaries, from the position we occupy, based on the work we do, from any post or trench of the socialist homeland, will be faithful to the exemplary legacy of the Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz, historic leader of our Revolution, and also to the example, the courage and the teachings of Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, current leader of the revolutionary process (Applause).

I name them and I evoke Martí, in his biographical sketch of Céspedes and Agramonte: “The stranger, or the pretentious, or the ambitious can write these names without trembling: the good Cuban, cannot.” Fidel and Raúl, bound by blood, ideals, and struggle, show us the meaning of the word brother in its highest degree, so valued in the emotional ties of national identity.

Much more. They, along with the men and women who brought the Revolution to this point, offer us the key to a new siblinghood, forged in the resistance and the shared battles that transformed us into compañeras and compañeros. Unity, so necessary while the nation was being forged, is since 1959 its most valuable and sacred strength; that has become extraordinary and invulnerable in the core of our only Party, which was not born of the rupture or splitting of others, but of the integration of all those that set out to build a better country.

For us it is totally clear that only the Communist Party of Cuba, the superior leading force of society and the state, guarantees the unity of the Cuban nation and is the worthy heir to the confidence placed in their leaders by the people, as compañero Raúl Castro Ruz stated in his speech on the 45th anniversary of the creation of the Western Army, on June 14, 2006.

That is why Raúl, who firmly prepared, steered, and led this process of generational continuity, without attachment to positions and responsibilities, with a high sense of duty and the historic moment, with serenity, maturity, confidence, revolutionary resolve, with altruism and modesty, remains through legitimacy and his own merit at the forefront of the political vanguard (Applause).

He continues to be our First Secretary, as the reference that he is for any Cuban communist and revolutionary. And because Cuba needs him, contributing ideas and purposes to the revolutionary cause, guiding and warning of any error or shortcoming, teaching, and always ready to confront imperialism in the face of any attempt to attack the country, as the first with his rifle at the hour of combat.

Raúl, as our people affectionately call him, is Fidel’s best disciple, but he has also contributed innumerable values to revolutionary ethics, Party work, and the perfecting of government.

The work undertaken with his leadership in the last decade is colossal. His legacy of resistance faced with threats and aggressions, and in the pursuit of the perfection of our society, is fundamental. He assumed the leadership of the nation in a difficult economic and social juncture. He put revolutionary courage and his sense of duty ahead of human pain, and led the country without rest, committed, with certainty, with impetus, with dedication and devotion. As a statesman, forging popular consensus, he has led, promoted, and stimulated profound and essential structural and conceptual changes as part of the process of perfecting and updating the Cuban Economic and Social Model.

With patience, intelligence, and firm decisions, that at the same time required secrecy, he secured the release of our Five Heroes, thus fulfilling Fidel’s promise that they would return (Applause). He has marked broad and dynamic international relations activity with his affable personal style. With firmness, dignity, and fortitude he led the talks and negotiations that had as their aim the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the United States. He headed the CELAC presidency pro tempore, defending unity within diversity and achieving the declaration of the Latin American and Caribbean region as a zone of peace.

He decisively contributed to the success of the Colombia peace talks and has defended Caribbean countries, and in particular the always overlooked Haiti and Puerto Rico, in all regional and hemispheric dialogue scenarios.

His rousing voice and forceful speech at the Summit of the Americas in Panama continues to move us, exalting the true history of Our America and the reasons for the Spartan resistance and unwavering solidarity of the Cuban people with the just causes of the region and the world, against all odds, threats and aggressions.

This is the Raúl we know, admire, respect, and love.

The student and rebel Raúl who participated in the first March of the Torches in January 1953, and who, in March of the same year, took part in the International Conference in Defence of the Rights of Youth, and the preparations for the Fourth World Festival of Youth and Students; the combatant Raúl who, in the heat of battle, assumed the command in the Palacio de Justicia of Santiago de Cuba, as part of the actions of the assault on the Moncada Garrison; served a prison sentence on the Isle of Pines; prepared for the fight against Batista during exile in Mexico; landed in the Granma; was reunited with Fidel in Cinco Palmas; launched the struggle in the Sierra Maestra; and due to his merits and bravery was promoted to Comandante.

The military commander Raúl, who in the Frank País Second Eastern Front, in the midst of the liberation war, developed organizational and governance experiences for the good of the population, which would later be duplicated throughout the country until the revolutionary triumph.

The Raúl who, at the head of the Ministry of the Armed Forces for 48 years, contributed to the achievement of results in the defense preparation of the country and in the development of the doctrine of the War of the Entire People, making it the most disciplined and efficient state administration body, at whose core experiences were developed that later served the country.

The political leader, Raúl, who has constantly promoted debate for the improvement of Party work, linked to the people, with ears kept well to the ground, and who, at very difficult times, convened us with integrity to prove that “Yes, we can,” and thus, the country and the Revolution could be saved.

I am aware of the concerns and expectations that a moment such as this naturally raises, but we have the strength, intelligence and wisdom of the people; the experience and leadership of the Party; the ideas of Fidel and the presence of Raúl, also accompanied by the invaluable leader, human being and devoted worker, compañero José Ramón Machado Ventura (applause) as Second Secretary of the political organization representing Cuban communists; as well as the strength, prestige, loyalty, and example of an Army founded by those who will never cease to represent the uniformed people.
Knowing popular feeling, I state to this Assembly, the supreme organ of state power, that compañero Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, will take the lead in the most important decisions for the present and future of the country (Lengthy applause).

We are living in a world characterized by growing threats to peace and security, interventionist wars, dangers to the survival of the human species and an unjust and exclusionary international economic order.

In this context, I reaffirm that Cuban foreign policy will remain the same and reiterate that no one will be able to weaken the Revolution or crush the Cuban people, because Cuba does not make concessions essential to its sovereignty or independence, negotiate its principles or accept conditions.

We will never give in to pressure or threats; the sovereign Cuban people will continue to decided the changes that need to be made.

I am aware that the task we are charged with entails an enormous responsibility to the people, which is why I call for the support of all those why occupy leadership responsibilities at different levels and in different institutions of the Revolution, but above all, I trust in the decisive support of the Cuban people, without which – and facing threats and challenges, which will always exist for a country committed to Revolution – it will be impossible for our society to successfully advance.

Our management and leadership must be increasingly collective, in constant contact with the people and facilitating the participation of the population in revolutionary tasks and decision making, through broadly democratic processes which are already an inseparable part of national policy.

In the same way that the Revolution has never made any promises over all these years, nor will I. I am here to express my commitment to work for and ensure the fulfilment of the program that we have given ourselves as a government and a people, in the form of the Policy Guidelines of the Party and Revolution over the short, medium, and long term. Only hard, selfless and efficient work every day will lead to concrete results and achievements which will represent new victories for the homeland and socialism, without ever abandoning the combative readiness of our undefeated Revolutionary Armed Forces.
This is how we will confront the threats of our powerful imperialist neighbor. Here, there is no space for a transition that ignores or destroys so many years of struggle. In Cuba, the people have decided, that there is only room for the generations born and educated under the Revolution and the founding generation to continue to work, without bowing to pressure, without fear or retreat, defending our truth and motives, without renouncing our sovereignty and independence, development programs or dreams.
We will always be willing to dialogue and cooperate on the basis of respect and equality, with those who are also willing to do so.

There will be no space in this legislature for those who aspire to the restoration of capitalism; this legislature will defend the Revolution and will continue perfecting socialism.

In order to tackle our internal difficulties it is important to emphasize that our priorities are defined in the documents approved at the Seventh Party Congress, and reaffirmed by Parliament, after being submitted to a broad process of popular consultation.

These documents recognize that political-ideological work, the struggle for peace, unity and ideological resolve, closely linked to the development of the national economy and ensuring the conscious, active, and committed participation of the majority of the population in the updating of our social and economic model, is our fundamental mission. Simply put, it is up to us to ensure implementation and advance this process.

Conscious of these priorities, it is our responsibility to perfect their implementation, correct mistakes, extract experiences, avoid improvisation, superficiality, delays and violations which irritate the population, sow pessimism and despondency, distancing us from our goals over time.

We must continually work to uphold unity, discipline, comprehensive analysis, and stringency in all organizations, bodies and institutions; in order to ensure that the great potential and opportunities that exist in our society are sustained and expressed in concrete results for growth, development, and prosperity.

On behalf of the compañeras and compañeros elected to senior positions within the National Assembly of People’s Power and Council of State we express, with a deep sense of commitment, that we will never betray the confidence placed in us.

And to those who, owing to ignorance or bad faith, doubt the commitment of the generations which today assume new responsibilities within the Cuban state, we have the duty to clearly tell them that the Revolution is alive, and will continue to live on, with a sense of the historic moment, changing everything that must be changed; emancipating ourselves on our own and through our own efforts;challenging powerful dominant forces in and beyond the social and national arena; defending the values in which we believe at the price of any sacrifice; with modesty, selflessness, altruism, solidarity, and heroism; fighting with courage, intelligence and realism; never lying or violating ethical principles, and the deep conviction that Fidel transmitted to us with his concept of Revolution, that there is no force in the world that can crush the power of truth and ideas. Revolution is unity; it is independence, it is struggling for our dreams of justice for Cuba and for the world, which is the foundation of our patriotism, our socialism, and our internationalism.

The Revolution continues its course without a single absentee, because we are even accompanied by our dead in crucial hours, just like Céspedes, Agramonte, Maceo, Gómez, and Martí, among so many others who were always present during our most difficult battles.
To content ourselves with living in the shadow of the glory that precedes us would be to betray that same glory. The members of this Parliament have been born, raised, and learned with the founders of the Revolution that all dreams are possible to achieve, even when the opposite seems to be true. “You don’t need wings to make a dream. It’s enough to have hands, a chest, legs, and determination,” as the poet would say.

This quote reminds us that the effort and sacrifice of Cuban revolutionaries have always been embraced by song and poetry, art and criticism. We are a Revolution that can say that is has been told and sung, from the very beginning, with the talent and originality of its artists and creators, true interpreters of popular wisdom and the dissatisfaction and hopes of Cuba’s soul.

And that will continue to be so. Intellectuals, journalists, creators, will always accompany us in our efforts to ensure that this archipelago, put on the global political map by the Revolution, also continues to be recognized for its singular way of fighting while singing, dancing, laughing, and triumphing. We are Cuba, which means resistance, joy, creativity, solidarity, and life.

No other country has resisted for so many years, without surrendering, the economic, commercial, military, political and media onslaught which Cuba has faced. But this has by no means been on account of a miracle. It has been the result of, in the first place, an authentic Revolution which emerged from the very heart of the people, a consistent leadership which never put itself above the people, but at the front in the hours of greatest danger and risk, and of an army born in the middle of the mountains with, and for, the poor of the Earth, whose bravery and expertise transcend our borders and has acted with as much ferocity in war as it has creativity in peace. That is to say, necessity, originality, imagination, courage, and heroic creation, according to Mariátegui.

“Create is this generation’s password” wrote Martí, a phase which Fidel’s generation made their own, and which those of us who have the reasonability of elevating his legacy, are duty bound to make our own.

Outside there is a world that looks upon us with more questions than certainties. For too long, and in the worst ways, we have received the erroneous message that the Revolution ends with its guerrillas.

In the age of communication, our adversaries have been able to lie, distort and silence our Revolutionary work. And even then they have still not been able to destroy it. We must be more creative when spreading our truth. At a time when there exist more tribunals than the open and multitudinous ones that were, at another time, the loud-speaker of the Revolution, we must learn to make more and better use of the possibilities of technology in order to inundate our truths across infinite spaces on planet internet, where today lies reign.

Let us clearly state that the Cuban Revolution continues to be olive green, and ready to take on all battles.
The first being to overcome our own acts of indiscipline, mistakes and imperfections, while at the same time advancing “without haste, but without pause,” – a wise warning from compañero Raúl – toward the horizon, toward the prosperity we owe ourselves and which we must achieve sooner or later, in the midst of the turmoil of a world weakened by uncertainty, injustice, violence by the powerful, and contempt for small nations and the poor majorities.

Compañeras and compañeros:
On a day as symbolic as today, full of emotion and meaning, on which we have shared commitments and convictions, we think of Fidel, of his ideas, of his formidable, prolific, indispensable legacy, as a way of nurturing this genuine desire to keep him among us, forever.

May every fiber of our revolutionary lineage tremble when we proclaim: I am Fidel!

And we swear to defend until our last breath this “socialist and democratic Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble,” won for us by the historic generation fighting on the sands of Playa Girón, 57 years ago, and which now hands it over to us, undefeated and assured that we will know how to take it as far, and place it as high as they did, are doing, and will continue to do. (Applause).

It is vital to state today:

Homeland or death!

Socialism or death!

We will overcome! (Applause)

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