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Cuban exiles in Miami's Little Havana view Cuban president as Castro's puppet

Versailles Restaurant regulars say Cuba's transition is not political change

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MIAMI – After their afternoon cafecito, Cuban exiles in Miami's Little Havana said they were convinced that Raul Castro's successor Miguel Diaz-Canel is not going to challenge the island's single-party system.

Juan Peña, a grandfather who was standing near the restaurant's ventanita, is among the Cuban exiles who chalk up the transfer of power on Thursday to a shuffling of deck chairs on a boat that’s not changing course. 

Diaz-Canel "is the puppet," Peña said. "He will be the puppet."

Many at Versailles Restaurant, where there was a massive celebration when Fidel Castro died, viewed the Cuban National Assembly's process as a political transition, but not as political change. They cautioned that any talk of political and economic reform is misguided. 

"It will be a person who was born after the Revolution and has ideas that are formed by that milieu," Cuban exile Octavio Pino said. "But it is not a Castro, so the opportunities are there if we want to create that situation." 

Octavio Pino believes Cubans living in the United States, who know the benefits of living in a Democracy, need to get more involved in Cuban politics. 

"The community here still goes there and visit their relatives," Pino said. "But there has to be more of a connection."