Raul Castro confirms he's resigning, ending long era in Cuba
Raul Castro said on Friday that he is resigning as head of Cuba's Communist Party, ending an era of formal leadership by him and his brother Fidel Castro that began with the 1959 revolution. The 89-year-old Castro made the announcement in a speech at the opening of the Eighth Congress of the ruling party, the only one allowed on the island.
Castro has not picked any successor yet
Castro said that he was retiring with the sense of having fulfilled his mission and confidence in the future of the fatherland. Castro didn't say who he would endorse as his successor as the first secretary of the Communist Party. But he previously indicated that he favors yielding control to 60-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, who succeeded him as president in 2018.
Coronavirus and several other factors have battered Cuba's economy
Castro's retirement means that for the first time in more than six decades Cubans won't have a Castro formally guiding their affairs. The coronavirus pandemic, painful financial reforms, and restrictions imposed by the Trump administration have battered the economy, which shrank 11% last year as a result of a collapse in tourism and remittances. Long food lines and shortages have also followed.
There has been discontent among citizens over pace of reform
Discontent has been fueled by the spread of the internet and growing inequality. Much of the debate inside Cuba is focused on the pace of reform, with many complaining that the so-called historic generation represented by Castro has been too slow to open the economy.
Cuban President permitted various economic reforms
In January, Diaz-Canel finally pulled the trigger on a plan approved two congresses ago to unify the island's dual currency system, giving rise to fears of inflation. He also threw the doors open to a broader range of private enterprise a category long-banned or tightly restricted permitting Cubans to legally operate many sorts of self-run businesses from their homes.
What lies ahead for Cuba this year?
This year, Congress is expected to focus on unfinished reforms to overhaul state-run enterprises, attract foreign investment and provide more legal protection to private business activities. The Communist Party is made up of 700,000 activists and is tasked with directing nation and society's affairs.
Castro brothers were the beginning of socialism in Cuba
Notably, Fidel Castro became head of the party in 1965, about four years after officially embracing socialism. He was the country's unquestioned leader until falling ill in 2006 and in 2008 handing over the presidency to his younger brother Raul, who had fought alongside him during the revolution. Raul succeeded him as head of the party in 2011. Fidel Castro died in 2016.