Raul Castro Retirement Unlikely to Alter Cuba’s Domestic, External Policies

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The retirement of Cuban Communist Party First Secretary Raul Castro is unlikely to lead to any significant change in the country’s domestic or foreign policies, analysts told Sputnik.

Castro announced his resignation during the Eighth Cuban Communist Party Congress in Havana earlier on Friday.

“The General of the Army said that he was pleased to hand over the leadership of the country to a group of trained leaders, seasoned by decades of experience … committed to the ethics of the revolution, identified with the history and culture of the nation,” Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, quoted Castro as saying.

Florida International University Cuban Research Institute  Director Jorge Duany noted that Castro had laid out a clear path of succession to his designated replacement.

“On April 16-19, the Cuban Communist Party Congress is expected to formalize the retirement of Raul Castro as the First Secretary of the party and to pass that responsibility to current President Miguel Diaz-Canel. Whether this transition will produce significant political or economic reforms in Cuba is yet to be seen,” he said.

Duany pointed out that Diaz-Canel has repeatedly pledged to continue Fidel and Raul Castro’s revolutionary legacy. No major changes will likely take place in the existing power structure, except possibly for the appointment of younger members born after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 to the higher echelons of the party, he said.

“A pressing issue for the ruling elite is how to face the island’s worst economic recession since the early 1990s (the Cuban economy officially decreased by about 11 percent last year), as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the collapse of the island’s tourist industry, [and] the declining economic assistance by the Maduro regime in Venezuela,” Duany said.

Cuba was also still suffering from the lingering effects of the economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration in the United States, Duany noted.

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