by Nicole Acevedo and Carmen Sesin,
Cuba has a new president, and for the first time in over 40 years, his last name is not Castro.
Although Castro will remain head of the Communist Party, the most powerful governing body on the island, his departure from the presidency represents a symbolic shift in leadership. Díaz-Canel, who has served as Cuba’s first vice president since 2013, turns 58 on Friday.
The transition is an effort to guarantee that new leaders can maintain power in the communist-run government. But Díaz-Canel faces challenges ahead, primarily economic stagnation and a younger generation’s disenchantment with their limited opportunities.
Before stepping down, Raul Castro, 86, was president for two five-year terms after the late Fidel Castro, his brother, fell ill in 2006 and transferred power to him.
Analysts debate how much power Díaz-Canel can wield as president with Castro still at the helm of the Communist Party.
“I think it’s going to be very tough for him,” said Pedro Freyre, chair of international practice for Akerman LLP. “I don’t know that he can do it.”
Díaz-Canel had long been seen as the overwhelming favorite to replace Castro, after climbing the ranks of the Communist Party.