Who will succeed Raúl Castro at the head of the government? Although most observers assume that it will be Miguel Díaz-Canel, and the general himself has stated that he would like to see the regime's old figures make way for younger ones, nobody knows with certainty what will happen on April 19, when the National Assembly elects the Council of State, and it, in turn, the dictator's successor.
DIARIO DE CUBA presents a list of possible candidates. Some are cited for their current position within the regime, or the power that they hold; others for their visibility, or in view of the Castroist elite's trust in them.
Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, age 57:
Most of the predictions call for him to be Raúl Castro's successor. His extensive travel around the country and the government press's ample coverage of his activities seem to lend credence to the idea that he is the general's chosen one.
Many wanted to see the first vice-president as a reformer, as during his time as Secretary of the Party in Villa Clara he authorized drag queen shows at El Mejunje, and rock festivals, and because he pedaled through the streets of Santa Clara on his bicycle. In recent months, however, he has made it clear that he subscribes to a line of orthodox Castroism.
His rise to the top has been unremarkable, without anything indicating that he could be a statesman. He is the leader born after 1959 who has climbed highest within the regime.
José Ramón Machado Ventura, age 87:
He is one of the regime's hardline stalwarts. Since Raúl Castro formally took over he has been his shadow; during a first stage, as the First Vice-president of the Council of State and of Ministers, and later as Second Secretary of the Communist Party, a position in which he must continue to accompany the general when he steps down as head of the government but maintains his leadership of the PCC.
Alejandro Castro Espín, age 52:
A colonel at the Interior Ministry, he is Raúl Castro's only son, and has risen to prominence in recent years. He is in charge of the powerful Defense and National Security Council, controlling all Cuban intelligence and counterintelligence staff. He handled the secret talks prior to the negotiations to reestablish diplomatic ties with Washington.
Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, age 85:
Vice-president of the Councils of State and of Ministers and one of the "commanders of the Revolution." He was the Minister of the Interior in the 60s and 80s. Considered responsible for the design of the regime's efficient repressive and intelligence systems, and a covert advisor in these areas for the Venezuelan government, he has also been the Minister of Information Technology and Communications.
Salvador Valdés Mesa, age 67:
As Vice-president of the State Council, his "15 minutes of fame" came during Barack Obama’s visit to the island, when he accompanied the US president to lay flowers in honor of José Martí in the Plaza de la Revolución. He was the General Secretary of the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (trade union), Minister of Labor and Social Security, and the First Secretary of the Party in Camagüey.
Gladys María Bejerano Portela, age 70:
The Comptroller and Vice-president of the State Council is one of the regime's most feared officials. Some have described her as Cuba's "Iron Lady." She has been in charge of the General Comptroller's Officer since it was created in 2009 by Raúl Castro. The Government presents her work as one of the "most complex institutional and moral battles" in a country where corruption is pervasive at every level.
Lázara Mercedes López Acea, age 53:
The First Secretary of the Communist Party in Havana rose quickly, shooting straight from her post as a Forestry Engineer in Aguada de Pasajeros to the Vice-presidency of the State Council. She served as the Party's First Secretary in Cienfuegos.
Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, age 60:
The Minister of Foreign Affairs has scored several diplomatic victories in recent years, including the resumption of relations with Washington, the signing of a political and cooperation agreement with the European Union, and a pact with the Paris Club on Cub’s debt. Both on and off the island, he is one of the regime's most familiar faces. He has been a student leader, Director of Juventud Rebelde, and a permanent representative of Havana at the UN.
Marino Murillo Jorge, age 56:
The press dubbed him the Reform Tsar, considering him the main architect of the economic adjustments the regime enacted for its survival. Formerly the Finance Minister, leaving this position has reduced his prominence, but he still heads the Permanent Commission for Implementation and Development, charged with preparing the measures that the government is implementing. He is Vice-president of the Council of Ministers and endorses the line of austerity and the fight against wealth that Castro has imposed on Cubans.
Esteban Lazo Hernández, age 73:
He is President of the National Assembly of Popular Power, and one of the few Afro-Cubans who has been among the regime's most visible figures for decades, although always somewhat in the background. He has been the First Secretary of the Party in Matanzas, Santiago de Cuba and Havana, and is a Vice-president of the State Council.
Leopoldo Cintra Frías, age 76:
General of the Army, Armed Forces and founder of the Communist Party, he is one of the members of the regime's so-called "historic generation." Having made his way through several branches of the Army, he is believed to be one of Raúl Castro's most trusted confidants.
Julio César Gandarilla Bermejo
Vice Admiral of the Navy, he has now been Interior Minister for a year. Until then he was a little-known figure, although he was the head of Military Counterintelligence. In his current position he oversees the Police and the State Security apparatus, among other areas.