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Here’s What You Need to Know About Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba’s New President

The majority of Americans have never known a Cuba that didn’t have a Castro in power. And virtually no one knows much about Miguel Diaz-Canel, who takes over control today.

The newly-installed president of the island nation that’s just 330 miles from Miami, though, has been a player in the country’s Communist party for 15 years and is a deeply-entrenched political player. Some of his views, though, could reshape Cuba for the 21st century.

Diaz-Canel isn’t your typical Cuban leader. He is in his second marriage and is the father of two. And he likes rock music and once wore his hair long.

He has championed LGBT rights in the past. That’s unusual in Cuba, as the country has historically not been a place where homosexuals are embraced. During the nine-year period he ran the Villa Clara province, he stood by those views, allowing the country’s first gay nightclub to remain open.

And he has doubled down on those views by pushing for anti-discriminatory language in Cuba’s labor code.

While some analysts say Diaz-Canel may not succeed in bringing sweeping changes to Cuba, he does seem intent on improving the quality of life, having spoken of making island-wide Internet access a priority.

And while he has no stated desires to change the country’s method of government, he reportedly is in favor of more critical media coverage.

Ultimately, though, the Castros will still have a big influence on Diaz-Canel, as outgoing president Raul Castro still heads the Communist party through 2021. (And experts long expected Castro to pick Diaz-Canel as his successor.) As such, there’s not likely to be a major shift in the country’s relationship with the U.S.