Raúl Castro announced on Friday that he is stepping down as chief of Cuba’s ruling Communist Party.
The announcement came during a four-day party congress.
“I concluded my task as first secretary … with the satisfaction of having fulfilled (my duty) and confidence in the future of the fatherland,” the 89-year-old former leader said in his speech. “I believe fervently in the strength and exemplary nature and comprehension of my compatriots, and as long as I live, I will be ready with my foot in the stirrups to defend the fatherland, the revolution and socialism.”
Castro, who rose to power with his older brother Fidel Castro in 1959, is expected to be replaced by President Miguel Díaz-Canel. Castro revealed back in 2018 that he expected Díaz-Canel to replace him after his retirement in 2021.
Cuba is one of the last communist run-countries in the world. Like many countries, Cuba’s economy struggled during the pandemic, shrinking 11%.
Relations between Cuba and United States remain strained.
Castro oversaw an improvement in relations with the United States between 2014 and 2016, including a historic dialogue with then-President Barack Obama in 2016. Obama lauded a “new beginning after decades of mistrust,” between the two nations, even visiting Cuba that year.
The Trump era turned that all around.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration re-designated Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” slapping the island with new sanctions. The Trump increased limitations on flights, trade and financial deals between the two countries.
Rep. Gregory Meeks, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Trump’s designation was an attempt to bind the hands of the Biden administration.
“This designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism with less than a week to go in his presidency and after he incited a domestic terror attack on the U.S. Capital … that’s hypocrisy,” Meeks told The Associated Press.
Last month, 75 lawmakers penned a letter to Biden stating that he should “promptly returning to the Obama–Biden Administration policy of engagement and normalization of relations.”
“Biden campaigned on reversing the travel and remittances policies and made the argument that concern for Cuban Americans, concern for families, concern for the humanitarian situation mean that Americans can be the best ambassadors for all those values,” said Geoff Thale, president of the Washington Office on Latin America.
Biden has not been in any rush to overturn the sanctions.
“It took us some time to see and evaluate how ineffective or how trashed in some ways the refugee processing system had become, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday, referring to actions by the Trump administration. “And so we had to rebuild some of those muscles and put it back in place, she said.
Originally posted 2021-04-19 11:00:00.