Raul Castro stepping down as Cuba's leader

Raul Castro stepping down as Cuba's leader Photo: Cubavision via ABC News, file

from Associated Press reports
Updated: April 16, 2021 04:17 PM
Created: April 16, 2021 03:31 PM

Raul Castro on Friday announced he is resigning as head of Cuba's communist party, ending an era of formal leadership by he and his brother Fidel Castro that began with the country's 1959 revolution.

Castro made the announcement in a speech at the opening of the Eighth congress of the ruling Communist party.    

Castro, 89, didn't say who he would endorse as his successor as first secretary-general of the Communist Party, but had previously indicated that he favors yielding control to Miguel Diaz-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.

His retirement means that for the first time in more than six decades Cubans won't be led by a member of the Castro family.

"Nothing compels me to make this decision, but I fervently believe in the strength and value of example and the understanding of my compatriots and let no one doubt it that as long as I live, I will be ready with my foot on the stirrup to defend the country, the revolution and socialism with more force than ever," Castro said in Spanish.

The change in leadership of the party comes as Cuba confronts its worst economic crisis in decades, driven by the coronavirus pandemic and sanctions imposed in the waning days of the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Prior to Castro's announcement, the White House said Friday it is not expecting any policy shift toward Cuba in the near term. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said "a Cuba policy shift or additional steps is currently not among the president's top foreign policy priorities."

President Joe Biden campaigned on the promise to partially revive the Obama administration’s opening that saw the U.S. raise the American flag at its long-shuttered embassy in Havana, ease the decades-old trade embargo and boost air connections between the two countries.

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from Associated Press reports

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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