Raul Castro Begins New 5-Year Term, Confirms As Last

Raul Castro began a second five-year term as Cuban President on Sunday, February 24, but also announced that it would be his last, according to The Associated Press.

The announcement came as a semi-surprise in light of recent hints that Castro was interested in retirement.

Castro had made “joking” comments to Reuters on Thursday, February 21, about stepping down. Juliet Sweig, director of Latin America studies for the US-based Council on Foreign Relations, described the tone of the remarks as “Raul’s style.”

Castro tapped his top deputy Miguel Diaz-Canel as successor, adding that Cuba is at a “transcendent” moment and that responsibility and power must be transferred to a younger generation, the AP report read.

Diaz-Canel, at 52, is 30 years Castro’s junior. His appointment is especially noteworthy because he will be the first to take over having not participated in the 1959 Cuban revolution.

The move could also continue to improve US-Cuban relations, which have moved in a positive direction since Raul Castro assumed the presidency from his brother Fidel in 2008.

Castro said in July 2012 that he would be open to resuming talks with the US “as equals.”

“Any day they [US] want, the table is set. This has already been said through diplomatic channels. If they want to talk, we will talk.”

Castro added, however, that the US would have to be open to hearing Cuba’s complaints of the US. “We are nobody’s colony, nobody’s puppet.”

Do you believe the retirement of Raul Castro will improve the country’s relations to the US?