Raul Castro announced Friday that he is resigning as head of Cuba’s Communist Party.
Castro, 89, made the official announcement at the opening of Cuba’s Eighth Party Congress. Castro says he “fulfilled his mission and confident in the future of the fatherland.”
Raul Castro had planned to step down as head of Cuba in 2021. Three years ago, he handed over the presidency to Miguel Diaz-Canel, Castro’s handpicked successor. The president is the second most powerful position in Cuba, after the first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba. According to the AP, Castro has not said who he would endorse as his first secretary successor.
With Castro’s exit from government, it will mark the first time since the 1959 communist revolution that a Castro will not hold a top role in Cuba’s government. In 1959, Raul’s brother Fidel led the revolution that knocked dictator Fulgencio Batista from power. Raul succeeded an ill Fidel as president in 2008 and head of the party in 2011. Fidel Castro died in 2016.
Cuba has been battered by the pandemic. Estimates say Cuba’s economy, which is reliant on tourism, shrunk at least 11% in 2020.
The start of the new congress on Friday falls on the 60th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion.