Raul Castro confirms he’s resigning, ending family’s era of leadership in Cuba

James Marshall
April 17, 2021

Cuban First Secretary of Communist Party Raul Castro Ruz gives a speech, on January 01, 2019, during the celebration of 60th Anniversary of Cuban Revolution at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in Santiago de Cuba.

When Fidel fell ill in 2006, Raul took over as president in 2006 - and formally in 2008 - becoming head of the ruling Communist Party in 2011.

"Nothing, nothing, nothing is forcing me to make this decision", said Castro, part of whose speech to the closed Congress was aired on state television.

"I believe fervently in the strength and exemplary nature and comprehension of my compatriots, and as long as I live I will be ready with my foot in the stirrups to defend the fatherland, the revolution and socialism", Mr Castro said at the Havana convention. Raul Castro had already given up his title of president a few years back, handing that job over in 2018 to his chosen successor, electrical engineer Miguel Diaz-Canel.

Photographs released by the official Cuban News Agency showed Castro, dressed in an olive green uniform, entering the compound with Díaz-Canel by his side.

The conclave is taking place in the midst of the pandemic caused by Covid-19 and its impact on all orders of national life, marked at the same time by the tightening of the blockade imposed by the United States on the archipelago for six decades.

Castro had said at the last party congress in 2016 it would be the last one led by the "historic generation" who fought in the Sierra Maestra to topple a US-backed dictator in a 1959 leftist revolution.

The transition comes at a hard time for Cuba, with many on the island anxious about what lies ahead.

Discontent has been fuelled by the spread of the internet and growing inequality. Together, the Castro brothers had ruled over Cuba since the 1959 revolution, after which Fidel Castro became the country's prime minister.

"Raul will be there", said former diplomat Alzugaray, in a system that may resemble "the one in China when Deng Xiaoping had no position but. everything had to be discussed with him".

For most of his life, Raul played second-string to his brother Fidel - first as a guerrilla commander, later as a senior figure in their socialist government. But for the past decade, it's Raul who has been the face of communist Cuba, its defiance of USA efforts to oust its socialist system - and its efforts to forge a rapprochement with its longtime foe. And he served for the following generation or two as head of the armed forces.

The Congress is the party's most important meeting, held every five years to review policy and fix leadership.

Ties with the United States, after a historic but temporary easing of tensions under president Barack Obama between 2014 and 2016, worsened under Donald Trump, who reinforced sanctions.

"The absence of a Castro at the helm doesn't necessarily mean there's going to be an abrupt change in the Communist party's style", added Norman McKay, an analyst with The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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