Raul Castro announced on Friday that he will resign as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba.
Castro’s resignation marks the first time since 1959 that a Castro brother will not hold a significant leadership role in Cuban government. While Miguel Díaz-Canel was appointed president of Cuba in 2018, Raul Castro, who turns 90 in June, remained involved in leadership of the country.
The Communist Party of Cuba will convene its eighth congress from Friday to Monday, during which it is expected to name Díaz-Canel as secretary. Castro said in 2018 that Díaz-Canel would take over as secretary in 2021, when Castro planned to retire.
Castro took power following the death of his brother, dictator Fidel Castro, in November 2016.
Cuba is one of the world’s last remaining communist countries, and the nation faces numerous challenges while recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. The Cuban economy contracted by 11 percent during 2020, bringing food shortages and a shutdown of the country’s tourism industry.
It is unclear if any major changes to Cuba’s governance will occur after Raul Castro’s departure. The Biden administration does not currently plan to change current policies regarding the country.
“Oppression against Cubans is worse today than perhaps during the Bush years,” Juan Gonzalez, executive director of the National Security Council, said in a Spanish-language interview with CNN earlier this month.