HAVANA - During his first official speech Thursday, Miguel Diaz-Canel said his presidency will be defined by the modernization of the island's social and economic model.
Diaz-Canel, who will lead the Council of State, vowed to follow a 12-year-plan drafted by members of parliament and the leaders of the Communist Party.
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"Raul Castro, as first secretary of the Communist Party, will lead the decisions about the future of the country," Diaz-Canel said. "Cuba needs him, providing ideas and proposals for the revolutionary cause, orienting and alerting us about any error or deficiency."
If the 86-year-old Castro gets his way, Diaz-Canel, who turns 58 Friday, will be president for a decade, and he will stay in power until 2031 as the head of the Communist Party.
In Cuba, the head of the Communist Party has controlled the island's politics since 1976. The party selects the members of parliament and approves an election with a ballot that allows voters only to approve or disapprove of their choices.
It's a process that the U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert described as an "undemocratic transition," because Cubans "had no real power to affect the outcome."
After proving his loyalty and devotion in the provinces of Villa Clara and Holguin, Diaz-Canel's ascend to power took about a decade.
In March 2009, when Raul Castro dismissed several ministers, Diaz-Canel replaced Juan Vela Valdes as education minister. Three years later, he was promoted to vice president of the Council of Ministers, and in 2013 he became vice president of the Council of State.
"There’s no space here for a transition that ignores or destroys the legacy of so many years of struggle," Diaz-Canel said during his speech. "For us, it is totally clear that only the Communist Party of Cuba, the guiding force of society and the state, guarantees the unity of the nation."
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