Raul Castro is the incumbent Communist Cuban Party’s First Secretary, having succeeded his elder brother Fidel Castro in 2011. He has been serving the Politburo of the Communist Party of Cuba committee, the top decision marking organ since 1975 and became the president of the Council of State and Council of Ministers in 2008, stepping down in April 2018. Raul Castro was the minister of armed forces for the longest time, having been the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces for a record 49 years between 1959 and 2008.
Castro was born in Biran, Cuba on June 3, 1931, as the youngest of the three brothers. His brother, Fidel Castro, was the second born son in the family which also had four daughters. As a child, he and his two brothers were expelled from their first school. He later attended Jesuit schools in Santiago and Havana. As a student, he studied social science where he turned in a mediocre performance. He became a socialist and a member of the Socialist Youth and sometimes participated in a violent student protests. In 1953, he met Nikolai Leonov, a Soviet KGB agent. In the same year, he was part of the July 26 Movement that launched an attack on the Moncada Barracks. As a result of his action, he was jailed for 22 months.
Given his role in the Moncada attack and the evident leadership skills, Raul was made a commander on February 28, 1958, and was tasked with the mission of crossing the old province of Oriente in an operation which was dubbed “Eastern Front.” When the Communist Party of Cuba was formed in October 1965, Raul was appointed the Second Secretary of the Politburo. He was also the First Vice President of the Cuban Council of State of parliament and the Council of Ministers when the two positions were created in 1976. Between 1959 and 2008, he served as the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces
In July 2006, Raul assumed temporary presidential duties following the illness of his brother, Fidel Castro. He was elected the new president of the Council of State and Council of Ministers in February 2008 for a five-year term. He was reelected in 2013 and shortly after announced that he did not plan to run for re-election in 2018. He officially handed over the presidency on April 19, 2018, following the election of his successor.
When Raul Castro took over the presidency, many believed that he was a hardliner who would maintain the influence of the CPC. Others believed that he would institute market-oriented programs and policies in the country. In May 2008, his government removed restrictions on the purchase of certain products such as computers, microwaves, and rice cookers in order to boost production. In mid-2008, he rewarded harder-working government employees with higher salaries. He also normalized the relationship between Cuba and the US with the former president, Barrack Obama, becoming the first sitting US president to visit Cuba.
Although Raul Castro’s life can be summed as largely successful, he had to work through challenges and opposition from time to time. As a student, Raul, unlike his brother Fidel, was mediocre in his studies and did not like reading, a fact that might have pushed him to participate in frequent student strikes. At only 22 years, Raul was jailed for 22 months for taking part in Moncada Barracks attack. Despite normalizing the relationship between Cuba and the US, President Trump has frequently threatened to terminate the deal between the two countries.