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Gen. Raul Castro Ruz

Raul Castro Ruz was born the 3 June, 1931 in Brian located in eastern Cuban, five years after Fidel. He has been close to his brother Fidel from an early age. Similar to Fidel, he attended the Jesuit School of Colegio Dolores in Santiago and Colegio de Belan in Havana. He was an avowed socialist long before Fidel formally embraced the ideology. He joined a communist youth group even before the Cuban revolution. Raul Castro is ageing badly. The the younger brother is in worse physical shape than Fidel. It is said that Raul wears a back brace almost constantly at present, and is reportedly in serious pain much of the time from an undisclosed ailment.

Raul Castro was married to Vilma Espin, who fought with him during the Cuban revolution and was later head of the Communist Party-linked Federation of Cuban Women (FEM) before her death in 2006. In the mid-1950s she was part of the urban guerrilla movement associated with Fidel Castro's "26 of July" organization. She married Raul Castro in 1959, in the first year of the Castro dictatorship, and founded the Federation of Cuban Woman (FMC) in 1960, a communist mass organization and instrument of totalitarian rule. She had been a member of the Politburo, Council of State, and the National Assembly; clearly the highest ranking woman in all these organizations. Espin was one of the matriarchs and charter members of the Cuban revolution, and without there ever being any public role for Fidel Castro's wives or concubines, had served by default as a kind of first lady. Espin had been terminally ill for the past two years and out of public view. The message beamed out to Cuba and the world was that Vilma Espin was a heroic and loyal follower of Fidel Castro and the revolution, and only secondarily Raul Castro's wife and member of the ruling family.

Raul was a participant in the 1953 "26th of July" movement which launched the failed attack on Moncada Barracks. Following his involvement in the failed assault, Raul was imprisoned until a general amnesty in 1955 at which point he was exiled to Mexico along with Fidel and others. In late 1956 Raul along with Fidel and about 80 other revolutionaries landed in Oriente province to fight against the Batista government.

From their position in the Sierra Maestra mountain range, the rebels waged a guerilla war against Batista's troops. Raul was given the rank of "comandante" on 2 February 1958 and led a guerilla column to open up a second front against Batista's forces. It has been reported that following the fall of the Batista government in 1959, Raul oversaw summary executions of Batista soldiers.

President Fidel Castro said he wanted Raul to be his successor three weeks after taking power in 1959. In 1959 Raul was named Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, giving him a ministerial authority and complete autonomy in reorganizing the armed forces. He used this position to build a professional military based upon Soviet doctrine. Cuba's troops grew to be 50,000 strong under his leadership. Raul Castro was heavily involved in Cuba's military conflicts with Angola and Ethiopia in the 1970s. He also helped revive Cuba's economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. He was also named the Second Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party ever since the Committee's inception in 1965 and is the First Vice-president of the Councils of State and Ministers.

Since they launched their insurrection in Cuba, the Castro brothers have been inseparable politically and ideologically through the entire revolutionary steeplechase. Lacking in charisma, and less than overwhelming personally, the younger Castro totally tied his fate to that of his brother. But allegations through the years that he is ineffective and weak, a mere stooge and executioner for Pidel Castro, are misleading.

Raul Castro was one of the youngest and most effective guerrilla commanders during the insurgency, and it was in the area of his "second front" in easternmost Cuba where some of the most important political and military advances were made. A number of the regime's most influential military and civilian officials have been intimately associated with him since those days, and these "raulistas" have constituted the largest single bloc in policy circles.

As Armed Forces Minister and Pidel Castro's designated understudy and successor the younger Castro demonstrated skill and leadership abilities in his own right. Thus, his legitimacy and effectiveness both depend on Fidel Castro's support and are autonomous to the extent that they have been developed through his own networks and accomplishments. By the late 1980s, as he was delegated greater influence and Fidel Castro had been seemingly more concerned with ensuring his brother's succession, the latter had a more prominent public role than in the past and demonstrated greater interest in civilian affairs. Thus, his autonomous legitimacy seemed to have increased.

Raul had long been seen as the heir apparent to his brother Fidel's position of power. Fidel Castro officially designated Raul his successor at a Communist party congress in 1997. "The important thing is that Raul is fit. He has climbed the Pico Turquino [Cuba's highest altitude] and in very quick time,” said Cuba’s president. He is known as a staunch defender of Cuba's communist system. He made the following comments in 2002 near the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay: "We already know they don't like our social system, but it's a reality that we are here and plan to remain."

While often described as lacking the famous charisma which characterizes his older brother, he has been seen as a powerful figure behind the scenes in Cuban politics. Raul was the main architect of a number of Cuba's economic liberalization programs following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But his push for economic liberalization has not carried over to political liberalization. It has been reported that Raul favors the " China" model of development which embraces market reforms but is strictly run by the Party elite.

On 1 August, 2006 an announcement was made that Fidel had temporary ceded power to Raul after the Cuban leader suffered from health issues which arose from strain while traveling abroad. On 13 August 2006, on the occasion of Fidel Castro’s eightieth birthday and a visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frías, Raúl Castro made his first public appearance as provisional president by greeting Chávez at the Havana airport. The following day, the electronic version of Granma, the official communist party newspaper, published photos of Fidel Castro being visited in his hospital room on his birthday by his brother and President Chávez. Despite Castro’s apparent improvement, in late September 2006 there was no indication that he would be resuming the full roster of his previous powers anytime soon, if at all. The temporary transfer of power, described by some observers as a dress rehearsal for a post-Castro transition, appeared more likely to become the actual succession. Nor was there any clear evidence that the leadership transition would evolve toward democratization, despite the overly optimistic assertion of opposition leader Osvaldo José Payá Sadinas that Fidelismo would not survive Fidel and that Raúl Castro’s assumption of power would mean the country had entered a stage of substantial democratic opening.

General Raul Castro replaced his brother Fidel Castro as chief of state, president of Cuba, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces on February 24, 2008. Although Raúl Castro apparently retained strong support within the military for his competent management of one of Cuba’s strongest institutions as well as for his successful command of the military during three overseas wars, his leadership of a post–Fidel Castro administration was seen as transitional because of his age—he turned 75 on June 3, 2006, reportedly poor health, and lack of his brother’s charisma and national and international stature.

Historically, but especially since the 31 July 2006 "proclama", Raul has sought to project a different style: much more understated, much less flashy than his brother Fidel. He has even said as much publicly on more than one occasion in the past 19 months. The narcissism of Fidel ws not Raul's style. More importantly, when it came to the circle of power, Raul preferred it wider and less uni-centered than Fidel. Thus Raul pushed through in mid-2006 the restoration of the PCC Central Committee "Secretariat," something Fidel had long avoided. Raul clearly felt he needed that kind of help. Like a bride heading to the altar, Raul's 12-person Secretariat held something old and something new, something borrowed... There weare old-time / old-think hard-liners like Machado Ventura and Esteban Lazo (as well as Fidel himself) and younger, reportedly relatively more open-minded figures such as Central Committee International Secretary Fernando Remirez de Estenoz and Transport Minister Jorge Sierra.

Cuban President Raul Castro said that Cuba's communist system remained non-negotiable and that he would not 'restore capitalism' in Cuba. In response to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comments linking dialog with Cuba to democratic reforms in the country, Castro told the Cuban National Assembly on 02 August 2009 that he was willing to discuss all issues, except the country's political and social system. "I have to say, with all due respect, in response to Mrs Clinton, but also to the European Union... I was not chosen as president to restore capitalism to Cuba or to renounce the revolution," Castro said. "I was elected to defend, maintain and continue to perfect socialism. Not to destroy it," he said.

Cuban President Raul Castro denied media speculations that there were signs of a political rift within the Cuban leadership. Speaking before the parliament, which opened its biannual session on 08 February 2010, Castro insisted that the unity of the leadership and the majority of the Cuban people were the country's "most important weapon." "As much as it hurts our enemies, our unity today is stronger than ever before," Castro said. The first Communist Party Congress (CPC) since 1997 was held in April 2011, where Raul Castro was officially named first secretary of the Communist Party.

Cuba will never give up the one-party system, President Raul Castro said in a closing speech to the ruling Communist Party’s national conference held on 30 January 2012. “We are defending the one-party system… The concept of a single party we will never give up is fully in line with the fifth article of Cuba’s Constitution, approved by 97.7 percent of voters during a referendum by means of free, direct and secret ballot,” Castro, 80, said. “Giving up the principle of one party means would just be tantamount to legalizing one or several parties of imperialism on our soil and sacrificing our strategic weapon - the unity of Cubans, which so many generations of patriots dreamed of,” Castro said.

In a speech given by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party Central Committee and President of the Councils of State and Ministers, closing the Constitutional Session of the 8th Legislature of the National Assembly of People's Power, Havana’s International Convention Center, February 24, 2013, he said "I think it is worth reiterating what I have affirmed twice in this Parliament, and I quote, "I was not elected President to restore capitalism in Cuba, not to surrender the Revolution. I was elected to defend, maintain and continue perfecting socialism, not to destroy it."

Cuban leader Raul Castro confirmed he would retire on February 24, 2018, when his current term ends. “I will not become the great-grandfather nor the great-grandson as then the Cubans would get bored of me… I will step down on February 24, 2018,” Castro said, as quoted by El Financiero news portal 07 November 2015. The 84-year-old Cuban leader first announced it was his last term as the Council of State chairman, which is the head of state in Cuba, in February 2013 after being re-elected for another five years.

Raul Castro officially to stepped down from Cuban political life during the country's Communist Party congress that began 16 April 2021. He ceded the post of party secretary-general, the country's most powerful role, to Miguel Diaz-Canel, who took over from Castro as Cuba's president in 2018. The move represented a new step in the transition of power from the Castro family to a new generation born after the 1959 revolution.

More than 60 years after Fidel Castro entered Havana and took power, Cuba is poised for public life without a member of the Castro clan. The 89-year-old Raul, a fellow leader of the 1959 revolution who first took over Cuba's presidency from his ailing older brother in 2006, will attend his final Communist Party congress as secretary-general this weekend. At the close of the four-day event, Castro will hand over the reins to its freshly elected chief, with his protégé Diaz-Canel the favourite in line for the role.

Raul Castro's departure from political life had been expected for a long time. It represented a step in the process of generational transition between those who lived through the 1959 revolution and the new generation. Indeed, the date surely wasn't chosen randomly, coinciding as it does with the 60th anniversary of the failed landing attempt at the Bay of Pigs by 1,400 anti-Castro paramilitaries trained and financed by the CIA. It was highly symbolic.

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