April 17, 2021

For the first time in 60 years, Cuba will soon be without a Castro in a formal, day-to-day leadership position.

Raúl Castro, the younger brother of the late Fidel Castro, confirmed Friday that he's stepping down from his role as the leader of the country's Communist Party, with President Miguel Diaz-Canel expected to take on double duties, as the Castro brothers did before him. The younger Castro, who is 90, is poised to remain an influential figure on the island, but he likely won't interfere with daily governance, The New York Times notes. That means a new era is on the horizon, as Cuba faces challenges from both the coronavirus and a struggling economy.

The next generation of leadership could allow for more free-market activity, a path that's not completely new for Cuba; Raúl, who is considered more pragmatic than his brother, began the process of implementing some reforms following Fidel's death in 2011, but it's been a slow grind. There's no guarantee a new regime will change that — Richard Feinberg, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, told Al Jazeera that he thinks it's the "worst possible moment" for reforms because the government has "no money."

That said, urgency may rule the day in a post-Castro world. Arturo Lopez-Levy, the author of Raul Castro and the New Cuba: A Close-Up View of Change and an assistant professor at Holy Names University, told Al Jazeera that, unlike the brothers, their successors will have to "rely on performance — not on historical legacy — to exercise power and as a source of legitimacy." Read more at The New York Times and Al Jazeera. Tim O'Donnell

June 16, 2017

President Trump, on occasion, has been known to take credit for accomplishments that he did nothing personally to bring about. On Friday, for example, Trump suggested that he is the reason Raul Castro is stepping down in 2018, despite the fact that Castro said four years ago that he would step down in 2018.

Nevertheless: Castro is "leaving now," Trump told an audience in Miami. "I wonder why?" Jeva Lange

December 4, 2016

The ashes of former Cuban President Fidel Castro were interred Sunday morning in Santiago, Cuba, following nine days of national mourning. "Few in the world believed in [Cuba's] ability to resist and overcome," said Fidel's brother, current Cuban President Raúl Castro, at the interment. "Fidel showed us that it was possible."

Raúl also announced Cuba would not name streets and landmarks after his deceased brother, insisting that the "leader of the revolution rejected any manifestation of a cult of personality and was consistent in that through the last hours of his life." Apparently having missed that memo, Cubans who watched a four-day procession of Castro's casket chanted, "I am Fidel! I am Fidel!" as it passed. Bonnie Kristian

September 21, 2015

For the 24th year in a row, Havana will introduce a nonbinding measure condemning the U.S. embargo of Cuba at the United Nations General Assembly. Once more, the resolution will be approved by large margins — in 2014, it passed 188 to 2, with only the U.S. and Israel voting against it. This year, the Obama administration is considering abstaining from the vote for the first time, The Associated Press reports, citing unidentified U.S. officials.

The Obama White House has urged Congress to scrap the 54-year-old embargo, given thawing relations with Cuba that publicly began last December (after the last U.N. vote). The Republican-led Congress has balked. And failing to vote against the embargo censure would cause ripples among lawmakers. Still, as of now, the U.S. will more likely vote against the measure once more — a calculus that could change if Cuba significantly modifies its resolution.

"Our vote will ultimately depend on what's in the resolution," one official tells AP. "This resolution is no different than others in the sense that we won't prejudge it before it's final." Peter Weber

May 26, 2015

Between Jan. 1 and May 9 of this year, 51,458 Americans visited Cuba, a 36 percent increase from the same time period in 2014. The increase is of note because U.S. travel to Cuba is only permitted in certain categories.

Jose Luis Perello Cabrera, an economist at the University of Havana, provided the travel statistics to The Associated Press. Cabrera noted that Cuba has also seen a large increase — 57 percent — in U.S. visitors traveling to the island from third countries, though most visitors still traveled directly from the U.S.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury Department told AP that travel to Cuba "for tourist activities continues to be prohibited," even though President Obama eased travel restrictions with Cuba in January. But despite the tourism ban, U.S. travelers now need only to "self-certify" the category of their trip. Tourists who provide reasons such as "support of the Cuban people, or professional research, or a family visit" are allowed to go to Cuba, a spokesperson for ABC Charters, which takes travelers from the U.S. to Cuba, explained to AP.

Tourists from other countries visiting Cuba have increased this year, too: During the same time period, the number of visitors to Cuba from all countries increased by 14 percent. Germany, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom all saw increased tourists to Cuba in 2015. Meghan DeMaria

April 9, 2015

The State Department has completed its review into whether Cuba should remain on the list of states that sponsor terrorism, President Obama said Thursday.

"Our emphasis has been on the facts," Obama said, adding that, "as circumstances change, then that list will change as well."

In December, Obama instructed the State Department to initiate the review as the U.S. moved to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba. Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro will on Friday attend the Summit of the Americas in Panama, where White House aides have "strongly hinted" the two leaders will personally meet, according to The Washington Post. Jon Terbush

April 4, 2015

"Full of vitality," according to local media, former Cuban President Fidel Castro made a public appearance for the first time in more than a year on Monday, greeting a Venezuelan delegation.

Reuters noted that there was no explanation as to why the appearance was not reported until Saturday; a local newspaper described the former president as impressing Venezuelans with a "firm, long handshake and a lucid mind," during the meeting at a school where the delegation was visiting as part of a solidarity mission.

(REUTERS/Estudios Revolucion/Cubadebate Handout via Reuters)

The 88-year-old last appeared in public on Jan. 8, 2014, at the opening of a Havana cultural center. He definitively stepped down from power in 2008, at which time his brother, Raul Castro, took over the presidency. Fidel Castro has not made many public outings since, although many Cubans believe he still advises his brother on national and foreign policy issues. Sarah Eberspacher

December 19, 2014

Republicans are butting heads over President Barack Obama's decision to ease restrictions on Cuba. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) came out in support of the policy move, declaring that "the 50-year embargo just hasn't worked."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) didn't spare his colleague, firing shots back on TV.

"Like so many people who have been opining, he has no idea what he's talking about," Rubio told Fox News. "The embargo is not what's hurting the Cuban people, it's the lack of freedom and the lack of competent leaders." Julie Kliegman

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