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Raúl Castro

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Raúl Castro

Raúl Castro 

Raúl Castro
Raúl Castro, July 2012.jpeg
18th (Former) President of Cuba
Assumed office
24 February 2008
Acting: 31 July 2006 – 24 February 2008
Prime Minister Himself (as President of the Council of Ministers)
Vice President José Ramón Machado
Miguel Díaz-Canel
Preceded by Fidel Castro
First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba
Assumed office
19 April 2011
Acting: 31 July 2006 – 19 April 2011
Deputy José Ramón Machado
Preceded by Fidel Castro
First Vice President of the Council of State and Ministers of Cuba
In office
2 December 1976 – 24 February 2008
President Fidel Castro
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by José Ramón Machado
Second Secretary of the Communist Party
In office
3 October 1965 – 19 April 2011
Leader Fidel Castro
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by José Ramón Machado
Minister of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces
In office
16 February 1959 – 24 February 2008
Prime Minister Fidel Castro
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Julio Casas Regueiro
Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement
In office
24 February 2008 – 16 July 2009
Acting: 31 July 2006 – 24 February 2008
Preceded by Fidel Castro
Succeeded by Hosni Mubarak
Personal details
Born Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz
3 June 1931 
Birán, Cuba
Political party Communist Party of Cuba(1965–present)
Other political
Popular Socialist Party (before 1953)
26th of July Movement (1953–65)
Spouse(s) Vilma Espín (m. 1959; d. 2007)
Children Deborah
Alma mater None
Religion Roman Catholicism
Awards Hero of the Republic of Cuba
Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise
National Order of Mali
Quetzal Medal
Order Prince Daniel of Good Faith First Degree
Military service
Allegiance  Cuba
Service/branch Revolutionary Armed Forces
Years of service 1953–59
Rank Comandante
Unit 26th of July Movement
Battles/wars Cuban Revolution

Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz (American Spanish: [raˈul moˈðesto ˈkastɾo ˈrus]😉 is a Cuban politician who has been President of the Council of State of Cuba and the President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba since 2008. Castro previously exercised presidential powers in an acting capacity from 2006 to 2008. Castro is Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, and Air Force), and has also been First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) since 2011. Castro is the nation’s highest ranking general.

Raúl Castro was a rebel commander during the 1950s. After his brother Fidel Castro took power, Raúl Castro was one of the most important figures in the party, serving as Minister of the Armed Forces for 49 years, from 1959 to 2008 making him the longest serving minister of the armed forces.

On 31 July 2006, Raúl Castro was designated the President of the Council of State in a temporary transfer of power, due to Fidel Castro’s illness. According to the Cuban Constitution of 1976, Article 94, the Vice President of the Council of State assumes presidential duties upon the illness or death of the President. Raúl Castro was officially made President by the National Assembly on 24 February 2008, after Fidel Castro, who was still ailing, announced he would not stand for President again on 19 February 2008. Raúl Castro became First Secretary of the Communist Party at its Sixth Congress on 19 April 2011, having previously served as Second Secretary under his brother for 46 years.

Castro was re-elected President on 24 February 2013. Shortly thereafter, Castro announced that his second term would be his final term, and that he would not seek re-election in 2018.

Early life

Born in Birán, Cuba, the son of a Galician immigrant father, Ángel Castro, and a Cuban-born mother of Canarian parentage, Lina Ruz, Raúl is the youngest of the three Castro brothers: Ramón, Fidel, and himself. He also has four sisters, Angela, Juanita, Emma, and Agustina. Ángel Castro’s first wife, Maria Argota, also raised five half-siblings of Raúl: Pedro Emilio, Maria Lidia, Manuel, Antonia and Georgina.

As children, the Castro brothers were expelled from the first school they attended. Like Fidel, Raúl later attended the Jesuit School of Colegio Dolores in Santiago and Belen Jesuit Preparatory School (Spanish: Colegio Belén) in Havana. Raúl, as an undergraduate, studied social sciences. Whereas Fidel excelled as a student, Raúl turned in mostly mediocre performances. Raúl became a committed socialist and joined the Socialist Youth, an affiliate of the Soviet-oriented Cuban Communist Party, Partido Socialista Popular (PSP). The brothers participated actively in sometimes violent student actions.

Raúl Castro’s travels and contact with Soviet KGB agent Nikolai Leonov — whom he met in 1953 during a trip to the Soviet-bloc nations and again in 1955 during his exile in Mexico City — facilitated Cuba’s close ties with the Soviets after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Leonov would later become the USSR’s KGB agent in Havana.

In 1953, Raúl served as a member of the 26th of July Movement group that attacked the Moncada Barracks; he spent 22 months in prison as a result of this action. During his exile in Mexico, he participated in the preparations for the expedition of the boat Granma to Cuba.

Commander in the Cuban Revolution

Raúl Castro (left), with his arm around second-in-command, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, in their Sierra de Cristal mountain stronghold in Oriente Province, Cuba, 1958

Raúl Castro (left), with his arm around second-in-command, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, in their Sierra de Cristal mountain stronghold in Oriente Province, Cuba, 1958

Raúl Castro (second from left) is shown blindfolding a man to be shot by firing squad. Oriente Province, Cuba, circa 1958

Raúl Castro (second from left) is shown blindfolding a man to be shot by firing squad. Oriente Province, Cuba, circa 1958

Raúl Castro with Salvador Allende, 1959

Raúl Castro with Salvador Allende, 1959

When the Granma landing failed and the 82 expeditionaries were detected by government troops soon after, Raúl was one of only 12 fighters who managed to reach a safe haven in the Sierra Maestra mountains, forming the core of the nascent rebel army (see the Cuban Revolution). As Fidel’s brother and trusted right-hand man, and given his proven leadership abilities during and after the Moncada attack, he was given progressively bigger commands. On 27 February 1958 Raúl was made comandante and assigned the mission to cross the old province of Oriente leading a column of guerrillas to open, to the northeast of that territory, the “Frank País Eastern Front”.

As a result of Raúl’s “Eastern Front” operations, he was not involved in the pivotal Operation Verano (which came close to destroying the main body of fighters but ended up a spectacular victory for Fidel). However, Raúl’s forces remained active and grew over time.

On 26 June 1958, Raúl Castro’s rebels kidnapped ten Americans and two Canadians from the property of Moa Bay Mining Company (an American company) on the north coast of Oriente Province. The next day rebels took hostage 24 US servicemen on leave from the United States naval base at Guantanamo Bay. This incident brought total kidnapped hostages to 36 (34 US and 2 Canadian citizens).

US Ambassador Smith and his staff determined the kidnappings had the following objectives: Obtain worldwide publicity, regain M-26-7 prestige lost by general strike call failure, force Batista’s Air Force to stop bombing rebel holds, and gain public recognition from the US.

Two tactical objectives the kidnapping achieved for Castro forces can be discerned from contemporaneous reporting in Time: Batista declaring a ceasefire for negotiations, forcing a reduction in Operation Verano air raids; the rebels used the lulls to regroup and fly in arms.

The hostage-taking caused significant US backlash, including unfavorable public reaction, and US consideration to re-establishing military support to Batista and deploying US forces to free the hostages. Ultimately, the hostages were released in very small groups, extracting the maximum press attention. After their release the hostages will say they have been well treated and some will claim to support the rebel cause.

By October 1958, after being reinforced by Fidel, the two brothers had about 2,000 fighters and they were operating freely throughout Oriente province. In December, while Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos were operating around Santa Clara, Fidel and Raúl’s army laid siege to Maffo (capturing it on 30 December). Their victorious army then headed to Santiago de Cuba, the capital of Oriente province.

In response to the victory by Che Guevara at the Battle of Santa Clara, the U.S.-backed President Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba in the early morning of 1 January 1959. The two Castro brothers with their army arrived on the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba and said their forces would storm the city at 6 PM 1 January if it did not first surrender. The commander (Colonel Rego Rubido) surrendered Santiago de Cuba without a fight. The war was over and Fidel was able to take power in Havana when he arrived on 8 January 1959.

Raúl’s abilities as a military leader during the revolution are hard to see clearly. Unlike Che Guevara or Cienfuegos, Raúl had no significant victories he could claim credit for on his own. The last operations (which were clearly successful) were conducted with his older brother Fidel present (and in command).

After Batista’s fall, Raúl had the task of overseeing the summary execution of scores of soldiers loyal to deposed president Batista.

Political career

Early political career

Raúl Castro Ruz was a member of the national leadership of the Integrated Revolutionary PO Organizations (established July 1961; dissolved March 1962) and of the United Party of the Socialist Revolution of Cuba (established March 1962; dissolved October 1965). He is also credited with helping shoot down a Lockheed U2 and killing Major Rudolf Anderson.

He served as a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and as the Second Secretary of its Politburo from the Party’s formation in October 1965; also as the First Vice President of the Cuban Council of State, of the National Assembly of People’s Power, and of the Council of Ministers when these were established in 1976. He was appointed Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces when the Ministry was founded in October 1959 and served in that capacity until February 2008.

Assumption of presidential duties

On 31 July 2006, Fidel Castro’s personal secretary Carlos Valenciaga announced on state-run television that Fidel Castro would provisionally hand over the duties of First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba (party chief), President of the Council of State of Cuba (head of state), President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba (prime minister), and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to Raúl Castro while Fidel underwent and recovered from intestinal surgery to repair gastrointestinal bleeding.

Many commentators consider Raúl Castro to be a political hardliner who will maintain the Communist Party of Cuba’s influence in the country. However, there are others who believe that he is more pragmatic than his older brother and willing to institute some market-oriented economic policies. It is speculated that he favours a variant of the current Chinese political and economic model for Cuba in the hopes of preserving some elements of the socialist system. However, none of these speculations has ever been confirmed by Raúl himself.

Raúl is considered by some to be less charismatic than his brother Fidel Castro, who remained largely out of public view during the transfer of duty period. His few public appearances included hosting a gathering of leaders of the Non-Aligned nations in September 2006, and leading the national commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Granma boat landing, which also became Fidel’s belated 80th birthday celebrations.

In a speech to university students, Raúl stated that a communist system in Cuba would remain, and that “Fidel is irreplaceable, unless we all replace him together.”

On 1 May 2007, Raúl presided over the May Day celebrations in Havana. According to Granma the crowd reached over one million participants, with delegations from over 225 organizations and 52 countries.

Raúl is known for his businesslike, unanimated delivery of speeches.


Castro with Russian Prime MinisterDmitry Medvedev

Castro with Russian Prime MinisterDmitry Medvedev

Raúl Castro with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, 2008

Raúl Castro with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, 2008

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner meets Raúl Castro in Cuba during a state visit in January 2009

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner meets Raúl Castro in Cuba during a state visit in January 2009

Raúl Castro with Hugo Chávez, 2010

Raúl Castro with Hugo Chávez, 2010

President Castro meets with Barack Obama in Havana, 22 March 2016

President Castro meets with Barack Obama in Havana, 22 March 2016

After assuming what was envisioned as a temporary control over the presidency, Raúl Castro was elected as the new President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers during a legislative session held at Cuba’s Palace of Conventions in Havana. The 597 deputies unanimously elected a 31-member Council of State for a term of five years, which in turn elected Raúl as president. His administration has since announced several economic reforms. In March 2008, the government removed restrictions against the purchase of numerous products not available under Fidel Castro’s administration including DVD-players, computers, rice cookers and microwaves. In an effort to boost food production, the government allowed private farmers and cooperatives to lease idle state-owned land and moved much of the decision-making process regarding land use from the national level to the municipal level.

In mid-2008, the government overhauled the salary structure of all state-run companies so that harder-working employees could be rewarded with higher wages. In addition, the government has removed restrictions against the use of cell phones and is investigating the removal of travel restrictions on Cubans.

In March 2009, Raúl Castro dismissed some officials.

In April 2011, Raúl announced a plan of 300 economic reforms encouraging private initiative, reducing state spending, encouraging foreign investment and agrarian reforms, as well as the limitation on presidential terms, including himself.

On 24 February 2013, Cuba’s parliament named Raúl Castro to a new five-year term as president and Miguel Díaz-Canel his first vice president. He announced that day he would step down from power after his second term as president ends in 2018.

Moves toward normalization of relations with the United States

Raúl Castro said in a 2008 interview “The American people are among our closest neighbors. We should respect each other. We have never held anything against the American people. Good relations would be mutually advantageous. Perhaps we cannot solve all of our problems, but we can solve a good many of them.”

On 10 December 2013, Castro, in a significant move, shook hands and greeted American President Barack Obama at the Nelson Mandela memorial service in Johannesburg.

On 17 December 2014, Castro and Obama made separate announcements that efforts to normalize relations between the two nations would begin with the re-establishment of embassies in Havana and Washington. The embassies had previously been dissolved in 1961 after Cuba became closely allied with the USSR.

The rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba was facilitated by Argentine-born Pope Francis, who allowed the Vatican to be used for secret negotiations. There were simultaneous public announcements by Castro and Obama about the progress toward normalization.

On 20 July 2015, Cuba and the United States officially resumed full diplomatic relations with the “Cuban interests section” in Washington, D.C., and the “U.S. interests section” in Havana being upgraded to embassies.

On 20 March 2016, Obama made a visit to Cuba to meet with Castro. It was the first visit of a sitting U.S. president to Cuba in 88 years.

Speaking in 2017, Raul Castro was highly critical of Trump’s proposition of a Mexican wall and his restrictive trade policy. He called Trump’s plans egotistical and his plan for the border irrational. “You can’t contain poverty, catastrophes and migrants with walls, but with cooperation, understanding and peace,” Castro said. The US President-elect also targeted Raul in a tweet, saying, “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal”.

Public and personal life

Castro married Vilma Espín, a former Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineering student and the daughter of a wealthy lawyer for the Bacardi rum company, on 26 January 1959. Vilma became president of the Cuban Federation of Women. They have three daughters (Déborah, Mariela and Nilsa) and one son (Alejandro) Castro Espín. Their daughter Mariela currently heads the Cuban National Center for Sex Education, while Déborah is married to Colonel Luis Alberto Rodríguez, head of the Armed Forces’ economic division. Vilma Espín died on 18 June 2007; a daughter and some relatives of Raúl are believed to reside in Italy.

In an interview in 2006, following his assumption of presidential duties, Raúl Castro commented on his public profile stating: “I am not used to making frequent appearances in public, except at times when it is required … I have always been discreet, that is my way, and in passing I will clarify that I am thinking of continuing in that way”.

In an interview with actor Sean Penn, Raúl Castro was described as “warm, open, energetic and sharp of wit”.

After a meeting with Pope Francis in Vatican City on 10 May 2015, Castro said that he would conditionally consider returning to the Roman Catholic Church. He said in a televised news conference, “I read all the speeches of the pope, his commentaries, and if the pope continues this way, I will go back to praying and go back to the [Roman Catholic] church. I am not joking.” The pope visited Cuba before his September 2015 visit to the United States. Castro declared: “I promise to go to all his Masses and with satisfaction,” when Pope Francis came to Cuba.

Honours and awards

  • Hero of the Republic of Cuba
  • Jubilee Medal “In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary since the Birth of Vladimir Il’ich Lenin” (USSR, 1970)
  • Order of the October Revolution (Soviet Union, 2 June 1981)
  • Order of the Holy Prince Daniel of Moscow, 1st class (Russian Orthodox Church, 19 October 2008) – For the contribution to strengthening inter-religious cooperation in connection with the consecration of the church of Our Lady of Kazan in Havana
  • Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, 1st class (Ukraine, 26 March 2010)
  • Order of Lenin (USSR)
  • Grand Collar of the Order of the Liberator (Venezuela)

Miguel Díaz-Canel had been selected as president of Cuba since 19 April 2018

From Wikipedia


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