Raul Castro, 89-year-old, said Friday he is resigning as head of Cuba’s Communist Party. Castro made the announcement in a speech at the opening of the eighth congress of the ruling party, the only one allowed on the island. He said he was retiring with the sense of having “fulfilled his mission and confident in the future of the fatherland.” “As long as I live I will be ready with my foot in the stirrup to defend the homeland, the revolution and socialism with more force than ever,” he added. His successor will be voted in at the end of the four-day congress. He previously indicated he favors yielding control to 60-year-old Miguel Díaz-Canel, who succeeded him as president in 2018. For the first time in more than 60 years, there won’t be a Castro leading the most powerful position in Cuba. But it’s a difficult moment for Cuba.
At least in the short term, little will change. The coronavirus pandemic, painful financial reforms and restrictions imposed by the Trump administration have battered the economy of the country. This year’s Congress is expected to focus on unfinished reforms to overhaul state-run enterprises, attracting foreign investment and providing more legal protection to private business activities. On the other part, the Biden administration has shown little inclination to unpick the Trump administration’s harsher sanctions on Cuba at this stage. At the congress on Friday, Raúl Castro said his country was willing to “develop respectful dialogue” with the United States but it would not accept having to make “concessions” regarding its “foreign policy and ideals”.