First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Raul Castro confirmed Friday he would be stepping down as head of the country, ending a 61-year reign of Castro leadership on the island.
Castro, 89, announced his widely-expected resignation at the opening of the Communist Party’s eighth congress Friday. He did not endorse a successor, but he reportedly favors current President Miguel Diaz-Canel to assume his role.
Raul Castro announced today he is resigning as the secretary-general of the Communist Party of Cuba. The move, though widely expected, marks the beginning of a new era for the party. https://t.co/VzENPW64Eu
— Axios (@axios) April 16, 2021
Whoever takes Castro’s post will be navigating a challenging time in Cuba, which saw an 11% shrinkage in its economy last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and increased economic restrictions from the Trump administration. Younger Cubans have pushed the old guard, led until now by the Castros, to economically liberalize the country at a quicker pace as inequality worsens.
Raul Castro became President of Cuba in 2008 after the resignation of his older brother Fidel, who had fallen ill in 2006. He remained in that role until 2018 when he was succeeded by Diaz-Canel. (RELATED: College Students In The Nation’s Capital Prefer Fidel Castro To Trump [VIDEO])
He became First Secretary of the Communist Party in 2011. The First Secretary of the party is the de facto leader of the country. Cuba’s constitution enshrines the power of the Communist Party in a one-party government, where opposition groups are barred from holding office.
Raul served as second-in-command to Fidel for years. The older Castro took control of the country in 1959 as Prime Minister, and the brothers have run the country since. Fidel Castro stepped down as First Secretary of the Communist Party in 2011 and died in 2016.
It is unclear what effect the resignation of Castro will have on relations between Washington and Havana. Following the Obama administration’s historic re-opening of political and economic relations with the island, former President Donald Trump re-implemented strong sanctions and re-added the country to the state sponsors of terrorism list. President Joe Biden has previously indicated a desire to return to Obama-era Cuba policy but has not yet made many major changes since taking office three months ago.