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Raúl Castro, Fidel’s heir, retires | International | News

He will cease to be the first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba.

This month, according to plan, in the Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PPC) – between April 16 and 19 – Raúl Castro will leave the leadership of this, the highest authority on the island.

The last name Castro is part of the history of Cuba since before the 1959 revolution, which aimed to remove the dictator Fulgencio Batista and which later became a socialist-communist revolution that has maintained power to date.

Although Fidel was the main figure, Raúl, his younger brother, was always by his side and was the heir who officially assumed the reins of the island in 2008. He was president until 2018, when he ceded the position to Miguel Díaz-Canel, but continued as the first secretary of the PPC.

The PPC, which according to the Constitution concentrates the greatest power of the State, must choose his successor -probably Díaz-Canel- to be in charge of setting the guidelines for the next five-year period, including the reforms to be carried out.

The beginning

Raúl Castro Ruz was born in Birán on June 3, 1931, being the younger brother of Ramón -the eldest, although less known than the brothers, but he was also part of the PPC and an official- and Fidel.

The youngest of the Castro Ruz boys -they had four sisters- studied administration until the second year, when he was part of the team that took over the Moncada barracks and other buildings such as the Palace of Justice in the attempted coup of 1953, which he failed and put the Castros in jail. Then they received an amnesty and left for Mexico, from where they would return to Granma in 1956 to start the revolution.

From a young age he was the closest to communist ideas, being part of the youths of the Popular Socialist Party. He was one of the promoters of rapprochement with the Soviet Union in the face of growing tensions with the United States after the revolution and after the massive expropriations of the regime. He was even the negotiator for Cuba in the talks for the installation of the rockets that ended in the so-called Missile Crisis that made the world fear a nuclear confrontation between the Soviets and the Americans in 1962

He was always the strong hand of his brother, he held various positions and became the minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. He had the utmost confidence in Fidel – albeit with small differences – who even went so far as to say that if something happened to him, he should take his place. He did not have the charisma, but he did have the organizational capacity, according to the Journal of the Americas.

When he replaced his brother as president of the Council of State, he took over an economy in crisis -situation in which he continues- and promoted certain reforms forced by circumstances, which also led him to unblock relations with the United States, getting to receive to then President Barack Obama in Havana. Given this, they began to think that perhaps it was open to change, but government sectors did not see this turn with good eyes and qualified the reforms, leaving these in the end distorted.

This, added to the arrival of Donad Trump to the White House (2017-2021), a hard line against the Cuban regime, ended up bringing progress back to nothing, maintaining the blockade and increasing sanctions. He also considers it an important factor for the stability of the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela.

Raúl Castro (r) and Miguel Díaz-Canel. Photo: Archive

With the arrival to the presidency of Díaz-Canel (2018), Castro wanted to show a generational change and even had a new constitution drawn up – allowing a little market on the island, but leaving power to the PPC – which has not been enough to start the necessary changes. Perhaps the only political change was to reinstate the Presidency of the Republic to replace the Council of State.

Now, with his retirement from the party, Castro leaves a political, economic and social situation that is not yet clear in the hands of his dolphin, regarding the design of a new model, since there are also those who do not want any change or not of the way it is proposed. So the uncertainty of what changes this pair wants and what they can make continues.

Cuban economist Jacqueline Laguardia told the media France24 that the changes in Cuba have been partially implemented, with no connection between them and with contradictions.

This year Castro and Díaz-Canel decided to open more than 2,000 economic activities to the private sector while the State reserves 124 for their exclusivity. An attempt to expand the 13% of the population that already works in private initiatives because the crisis is hitting the country hard, especially in a world of pandemic that has left tourism – one of the main sources of income – on the ground.

Reforms achieved

Before acceding to the Presidency, Raúl Castro spent two years (2006 and 2007) directing Cuba on an interim basis, until he became president. In other words, he has been the most powerful person on the island for fifteen years and, according to BBC, these were some of the changes:

  • In 2013, it authorized Cubans to be able to leave the island for up to two years without losing their property -except for medical and military, they need permits-. In addition, this reform -updated in 2016 and 2018- facilitated the visits of Cubans who had previously left illegally. With this, many Cubans abroad have returned to visit.
  • Something related to this is that Cubans can already go to hotels on the island dedicated to international tourism to stay, before 2008 they were for the exclusive use of foreigners. Locals could only go for honeymoon or for certain special plans.
  • In 2010, he expanded the permits for self-employment. Although there are also criticisms for the limitations that entrepreneurs may have.
  • Before 2011, Cubans could not buy and sell cars and houses. Two markets that grow slowly.
  • Internet access has been expanding, although with some caution and control.
  • Despite the irony, knowing his history and that of Fidel, the new constitution established age limits (up to 60 years to enter the party committee and up to 70 to be part of the PPC leadership) and time to the main positions public (two periods).

By leaving the first secretariat of the PPC this April, Cuba will have for the first time in 62 years a maximum authority that does not have the last name Castro. (I)

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