Raul Castro resigns, bringing an end to Cuba's period of family communist rule.
Raul Castro announced his resignation as president of Cuba's Communist Party on Friday, bringing an end to a period of formal leadership by he and his brother Fidel Castro dating all the way back to the 1959 revolution.
Castro, 89, made the announcement Friday during a speech at the opening of the ruling party's Eighth Congress, the only one permitted on the island.
He said that he was retiring with the satisfaction of having "completed his mission and having confidence in the fatherland's future."
Castro made no mention of who he would recommend as his successor as Communist Party first secretary. However, he has previously indicated his preference for ceding power to 60-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, who succeeded him as president in 2018 and is the standard bearer of a younger generation of loyalists calling for economic liberalization without affecting Cuba's one-party system.
His retirement means that Cubans will be without a Castro officially governing their affairs for the first time in more than six decades, and it comes at a tough time, with many on the island fearful of what lies ahead.
On April 16, 2021, Raul Castro, the Communist Party's first secretary and former president, attends an opening session at the Convention Palace in Havana, Cuba.
The coronavirus pandemic, painful financial reforms, and Trump administration restrictions have ravaged the economy, which shrank 11% last year due to a slump in tourism and remittances. Long food lines and shortages have evoked memories of the early 1990s "unique era" following the fall of the Soviet Union.
The spread of the internet and increasing inequality have sparked discontent.
Much of the debate inside Cuba centers on the pace of change, with many claiming that Castro's so-called "historic generation" has been too slow to liberalize the economy.
In January, Diaz-Canel implemented a proposal approved by two congresses to unify the island's dual currency regime, sparking inflation fears. He also opened the door to a wider spectrum of private enterprise — a category that had previously been prohibited or severely limited — allowing Cubans to legally operate a variety of self-employed enterprises from their homes.
This year's congress is expected to concentrate on unfinished reforms aimed at modernizing state-owned companies, attracting foreign investment, and strengthening legal security for private sector activities.
The Communist Party of Cuba is composed of 700,000 members and is charged by Cuba's constitution with directing the nation's and society's affairs.
Fidel Castro, who led the revolt that deposed dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, was elected party leader formally in 1965, approximately four years after endorsing socialism.
He soon absorbed the old party and was the undisputed leader of the country until he fell ill in 2006 and handed over the presidency to his younger brother Raul, who had fought alongside him during the revolution.
In 2011, Raul succeeded him as the party's leader. Castro was assassinated in 2016.