HAVANA – Cubans are heading to the polls to select lawmakers for the National Assembly, which will be tasked with electing a new president in April, the Sunday vote being the last step before replacing 86-year-old President Raul Castro and a move to shore up socialism and the Revolution, which the regime considers to be “under attack” by the US.
The communist island’s first vice president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, emphasized that Cubans are casting their ballots on Sunday in an expression of their “unshakable commitment” to the Revolution, which is “under attack and threatened” by the US, which in recent months has taken measures “that offend and harm millions of Cubans.”
Diaz-Canel, who all indications are will become Cuba’s next president, cast his ballot amid heavy national and international media coverage in his native city of Santa Clara, which he is running to represent in parliament.
In an unusual situation for Cuba’s top officials, Diaz-Canel stood in line with his wife for some 20 minutes before being able to vote, during which time he chatted with and greeted other local voters.
Diaz-Canel served as the Communist Party’s first provincial secretary for the region from 1994-2003. He assumed the position of first vice president in 2013.
More than eight million Cubans are eligible to vote in Sunday’s election, and the lawmakers selected in the balloting will be installed on April 19, the date on which they will fill from among their ranks the 33 posts in the Council of State, the top government body, along with choosing the new president.
“I’m certain that sooner or later we will defeat the imperialist plan ... thanks to the resistance and heroism of our people,” said the 57-year-old Diaz-Canel, who accused the Donald Trump administration of resuming “Cold War rhetoric” amid the reversal in Cuban-US relations, which have been marked by a tightening of the US embargo on the island and Washington’s reducing its personnel at its embassy in Havana, where consular activities have been suspended.
The 1,265 members of the Provincial Assemblies are also being selected in Sunday’s vote.