The country of Cuba has a new leader … really. His name is Miguel Díaz-Canel, and he was officially named Cuba’s next president after the country’s National Assembly selected him with a vote of 603 to 1 to take over for Raúl Castro later this year. But why should anyone be surprised that a new leader was chosen to lead a country? They shouldn’t, unless that country is like Cuba. For nearly sixty years, Cuba has been ruled by the Castro brothers—Fidel from 1959 until 2008, and Raúl from 2008 until now. When Fidel Castro overthrew the military dictatorship led by Fulgencia Batista, he promised that he would create an honest government and give the people more freedoms. Once he came to power, however, he turned private businesses and commerce into government-controlled organizations and took away American-owned agricultural land and businesses. He also broke ties with the United States. When he formally handed over his powers to his brother Raúl, most Cubans were happy for the change. Although Raúl carried out much of what his brother had started, he
also made some changes to improve Cuba’s economy. He began allowing Cubans to sell and buy their own homes and cars, creating a real estate and automotive market. He allowed people to start their own businesses, but those businesses were heavily watched over by the government—one false move and the government could take away an owner’s license to operate a business. But perhaps one of Raúl Castro’s most memorable acts as president is when he re-opened ties with the United States, a severed relationship since 1961. But don’t think that Raúl is going to step away from the government just yet—oh no—he’ll still be around acting as leader of the Communist Party.