Raul Castro: Cubans react to communist leader stepping down
He assumed the position from his brother, revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, in April 2011. Cuban communists, led by Fidel Castro, seized power in 1959 overthrowing the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.
Raul Castro was one of the last surviving members of the “historic generation” that carried out the 1959 revolution.
He will formally stand down the 8th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) which is taking place in Havana.
As his brother’s health faded Raul Castro took over first as president, then as chief of the Cuban communist party.
He previously led the Cuban army after leading bands of guerrilla fighters.
Raul Castro will resign as head of the Cuban Communist Party
Raul Castro (left) pictured with his brother Fidel
Fidel Castro died in November 2016 aged 90.
Miguel Diaz-Canel, who replaced Raul Castro in 2018 as president, is expected to take over as communist party chief.
In Cuba the presidency and communist party leadership are the two most important positions, with the latter marginally more powerful.
Speaking to Al Jazeera Cuban born historian Ada Ferrer said: “No one knows what is coming.
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“No one knows what it will be like not to have this Castro family dynamic at the heart of Cuba after 60 years.”
Cuba remains poverty wracked with long queues for food and other basic essentials.
In 2011 Raul Castro introduced some pro-market reform in response to the suffering creating a new class of self-employed.
Privately owned family restaurants and self-employed taxi drivers were allowed under the innovative.
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Cuba remains deeply impoverished
Cuba’s economy shrank by 11 percent in 2020
Both were significant concessions from an ultra-centralised authoritarian state.
Cuba was badly hit following Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017 after which the new president ended a treaty negotiated with Barack Obama which had significantly improved relations.
Michael Bustamante, author of Cuban Memory Wars, warned Raul Castro faces major challenges.
He commented: “It seems to me his position is not an enviable one, given the problems he has inherited and the challenges that have fallen on his lap.
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“There has been so much emphasis on continuity, on his trying to telegraph clearly to the outside world that, you know, ‘I am not Mikhail Gorbachev’, that he has not projected much of his own vision.”
The Cuban economy shrunk by 11 percent in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic struck.
In a bid to reboot its economy in February it was announced small private businesses will be allowed in most areas of the economy.
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The number of activities these will be permitted to carry out will be boosted from 127 to over 2,000.
President Miguel Diaz-Canel said the measures aim for the “improvement of the non-state sector, with immediate priority in the expansion of self-employment and removal of obstacles”.
Around 13 percent of the Cuban workforce are believed to be self-employed.