Raúl Castro says he is resigning as Cuban Communist Party leader, ending his family’s six decades in power. He has been the party’s secretary-general since succeeding his older brother, Fidel Castro, in 2011.
Castro, 89, told a party congress that he is handing over the leadership to a younger generation “full of passion and anti-imperialist spirit”.
His successor will be voted in at the end of the four-day congress.
The move, which was expected, ends the era of formal leadership by him and his brother Fidel Castro, which began with the 1959 revolution.
“I believe fervently in the strength and exemplary nature and comprehension of my compatriots,” he told party delegates in Havana on Friday.
Although Mr Castro has not endorsed a successor, it is widely believed the party leadership will pass to Miguel Díaz-Canel, who took over as the island’s president in 2018.
While the entire island knew this moment was coming, it was no less historic or symbolic when it arrived: Cuba will be officially governed by someone other than a Castro for the first time since 1959.
The man who took over from Raúl Castro as president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, may well succeed him now as the party’s first secretary too. It seems likely he will be forced to take further steps to liberalise Cuba’s centrally controlled economy. The island is currently in the grip of its worst economic crisis since the period immediately following the end of the Cold War. As a result, private farmers were recently permitted to sell beef and dairy products – goods previously under the sole control of the state.
Any hope of improving ties with the US however may have to wait as the Biden administration has shown little inclination to unpick the Trump administration’s harsher sanctions on Cuba at this stage.