CARIBBEAN. Cuba: Raúl Castro has announced at the party congress about his resignation as Cuban Communist Party leader, ending his family’s era of six decades.
Castro, 89, said that he is handing over the leadership authority to a younger generation full of anti-imperialist spirit and passion. Castro has not mentioned a successor yet, but many are of the belief that Miguel Diaz-Canel, who took over as the island’s president in 2018, will take over the leadership.
At the end of the four-day congress, Castro’s successor will be voted in.
The formal leadership by him and his brother Fidel Castro, which began with the 1959 revolution was ended by Castro’s decision to step down, which was expected. “I believe fervently in the strength and exemplary nature and comprehension of my compatriots,” he told party delegates in Havana on Friday.
As a leader, Raúl Castro maintained the communists’ one-party grip on power. But under Donald Trump’s presidency, tensions worsened as Trump imposed sanctions. Current US President Joe Biden has vowed to relax some of Trump’s sanctions, but on the other hand, the White House on Friday said that a shift in Cuban policy was not one of his top priorities.
For the first time since 1959, Cuba will be officially governed by someone other than a Castro.
But Raúl Castro’s words of keeping “one foot in the stirrup” indicate that he will remain a powerbroker behind the scenes. In the short term at least, little may change as by reiterating the island’s eternal commitment to socialism, political change remains as unlikely under his successor as it was under his late brother, Fidel.
The change at the top of Cuba’s governing party is a result of the most serious economic crisis the island’s leadership is tackling in decades. Another challenge will be maintaining ideological unity and support in the face of citizens’ increased access to the internet and social media.
But despite the change in leadership, few expect it will prompt a dramatic change in policy direction.