Cuba Set For First Non-Castro President in Nearly 60 Years
A longtime deputy of Raul Castro is set to become Cuba's new president Thursday, becoming the country's first president outside the Castro family in nearly 60 years.
First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel was named the only candidate for president on Wednesday as part of a two-day process that finishes Thursday with a vote by members of the National Assembly and the official announcement of the result.
The procedure is a departure from the past, when the legislature has generally chosen the president and made the announcement the same day. The votes are almost always done in secrecy, in keeping with the will of the country's top leadership.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the transition is "of great concern" to the Trump administration because it is not democratic.
"We would like citizens to be able to have a say in their political outcomes, and this certainly does not seem like regular folks will have a say. They basically don't have a real and meaningful choice because it's not a democratic process."
Nauert said the administration would like to see "a more free and democratic Cuba," but is "not overly optimistic."
The new president will succeed 86-year-old Raul Castro, who is resigning after two five-year terms. His late brother Fidel served as prime minister and president after the armed Cuban Revolution in 1959 until he became ill in 2006.
Diaz-Canel appears to be socially liberal and is considered an acceptable successor to the retiring elderly leaders who fought in the revolution.
Congress will select leaders of the legislature before choosing the president and other members of the Council of State, Cuba's top government body.
The process will usher in a new group of younger leaders who face pressure to bring greater prosperity to the country and revitalize its economy, which is smaller than it was in 1985 when it was supported by the former Soviet Union.
While the assembly promotes younger leaders, Castro and other older revolutionaries are expected to retain their power, due to their hold on the Communist Party. Castro will remain party leader.
No Trade Agreements Emerge from Two Days of Trump-Abe Talks
Despite frequent assurances that they continue to enjoy a warm friendship, U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over two days of talks apparently failed to bridge significant differences on major trade issues.
Trump declared his discussions with Abe “extremely productive,” but few details of success emerged during their joint news conference on Wednesday.
“President Trump and I agreed to start talks for free, fair and reciprocal trade deals,” said Abe, without providing specifics.
Trump expressed his preference for a country-to-country “free trade agreement” between the United States and Japan, while Abe bluntly called for Washington to re-enter what was previously the 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Trump pulled the United States from the comprehensive trade pact shortly after taking office.
Japan’s position is “TPP is the best for both of our countries,” Abe told reporters during the news conference at Trump’s private resort on the Florida Atlantic coast.
Trump also did not lift steel and aluminum tariffs on Japan, despite previously giving other U.S. allies exemptions.