On Friday, Raúl Castro said he would resign as the leader of Cuba’s Communist Party, signaling a close to more than six decades of Castro family rule.
The Washington Post reports, “Sixty-two years after a band of revolutionaries set Cuba down the path of confrontation with Washington – and unleashed waves of exiles that reshaped American cities – the last of the Castro brothers, towering figures of the Cold War, announced he will surrender official power.” According to the outlet, “Fidel Castro’s younger brother has hinted for a decade at an expiration date to his public life,” but the 89-year-old “said he would step down as first secretary of the Communist Party.”
Castro made the announcement during a speech on the first day of the Communist Party’s eighth congress. NBC News reported Castro said he had “fulfilled his mission” and was “confident in the future of the fatherland.”
“Nothing, nothing, nothing is forcing me to make this decision,” said Castro. “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 stirrup to defend the homeland, the revolution and socialism with more force than ever.”
Comrade Raul Castro steps down today as the First Secretary of the Communist Party in Cuba after a lifetime of service to the revolutionary cause. Venceremos! pic.twitter.com/fEMvujqYpP
— Vijay Prashad (@vijayprashad) April 16, 2021
The Associated Press reports, Castro did not say who he would endorse as his replacement, “but previously indicated he favors yielding control to 60-year-old Miguel Díaz-Canel, who succeeded him as president in 2018 and is the standard bearer of a younger generation of loyalists who have been pushing an economic opening without touching Cuba’s one-party system.” Castro described those comrades as “full of passion and anti-imperialist spirit.”
“Raul Castro stepping down as head of the Communist Party in #Cuba isn’t real change,” tweeted Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida earlier this week. “But real change is already underway nonetheless.”
Raul Castro stepping down as head of the Communist Party in #Cuba isn’t real change
But real change is already underway nonetheless
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) April 13, 2021
More from the AP:
The Communist Party is made up of 700,000 activists and is tasked in Cuba’s constitution with directing the affairs of the nation and society.
Fidel Castro, who led the revolution that drove dictator Fulgencio Batista from power in 1959, formally became head of the party in 1965, about four years after officially embracing socialism.
He quickly absorbed the old party under his control and was the country’s unquestioned leader until falling ill in 2006 and in 2008 handing over the presidency to his younger brother Raul, who had fought alongside him during the revolution.
Raul succeeded him as head of the party in 2011. Fidel Castro died in 2016.
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 and its defiance of U.S. efforts to oust its socialist system.
According to the AP, Castro’s resignation comes at a “difficult time” for Cuba, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, an economy that shrank 11% last year, long food lines and shortages, along with “discontent” that reportedly “has been fueled by the spread of the internet and growing inequality.” NBC reports, “the country’s challenges have led to public discontent at levels rarely seen since the 1959 communist revolution.”