A post-Castro Cuba: What Raúl Castro's looming retirement means

Fidel's younger brother is stepping down in 2018; what will anointed successor Miguel Díaz-Canel do?

Cuban President Raul Castro gestures goodbye to reporters after a press conference on Feb. 22.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

Last week, Cuban leader Raúl Castro playfully suggested that he might step down — "I am going to be 82 years old," he told reporters on Feb. 22. "I have the right to retire, don't you think?" — and on Sunday he made it official. As Cuba's parliament ratified Castro for a second five-year term, Castro announced it will be his last, meaning that in 2018, someone not named Castro will lead the island nation for the first time since 1959. That person may well be Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, a 52-year-old rising star in Cuba's Communist Party and the man Raúl Castro has apparently anointed as his successor.

The post-Castro Cuba, assuming Raúl does step down as planned, won't necessarily be post-communist. Castro, who has gradually assumed power from his ailing older brother, Fidel Castro, since 2006, told the parliament that he "was not chosen to be president to restore capitalism to Cuba" but rather "to defend, maintain, and continue to perfect socialism," though he said his ongoing reforms nudging Cuba toward freer markets will make the country "less egalitarian, but more just." Fidel Castro made a rare public appearance in parliament for his brother's re-election but left before Raúl's speech.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.