Raúl Castro

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This article is about the current Cuban leader. For the former Governor of Arizona, see Raúl Héctor Castro. For other uses, see Raúl Castro (disambiguation).
This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Castro and the second or maternal family name is Ruz.
Raúl Castro
Raúl Castro, July 2012.jpeg
18th President of Cuba
Assumed office
24 February 2008
Acting: 31 July 2006 – 24 February 2008
Vice President José Ramón Machado (2008-13)
Miguel Díaz-Canel (2013-present)
Preceded by Fidel Castro
First Secretary of the Communist Party
Assumed office
19 April 2011
Acting: 31 July 2006 – 19 April 2011
Deputy José Ramón Machado
Preceded by Fidel Castro
First Vice President 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
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
(1931-06-03) 3 June 1931 (age 83)
Birán, Cuba
Political party Popular Socialist Party (Before 1953)
26th of July Movement (1953–1965)
Communist Party (1965–present)
Spouse(s) Vilma Espín (1959–2007)
Children Deborah
Awards Hero of the Republic of Cuba[1]
Order of Yaroslav Mudry First Grade[2]
National Order of Mali[3]
Quetzal Medal[4]
Order Prince Daniel of Good Faith First Degree[5]
Military service
Allegiance  Cuba
Service/branch Revolutionary Armed Forces
Years of service 1953–1959
Rank Comandante
Unit 26th of July Movement
Battles/wars Cuban Revolution

Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz[6] (American Spanish: [raˈul moˈðesto ˈkastɾo ˈrus]; born 3 June 1931), commonly known as Raúl Castro, is a Cuban politician and revolutionary who has been President of the Council of State of Cuba[7][8] and the President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba since 2008; he previously exercised presidential powers in an acting capacity from 2006 to 2008. He 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, and 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 from 1959 to 2008, the longest to serve in such a position.

On 31 July 2006, Raúl Castro was designated as 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 elected as President by the National Assembly on 24 February 2008, after Fidel Castro, who was still ailing, announced his intention not to stand for President again on 19 February 2008.[7]

Raúl Castro was elected as 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.

He was re-elected President on 24 February 2013, and shortly thereafter announced that his second term would be his final term and that he would not seek re-election in 2018.[9]

Early life[edit]

Castro was born in Birán, Cuba. The son of a Spanish immigrant father from Galicia, Ángel Castro, and a Cuban mother of Spanish ancestry, 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 Colegio Belén in Havana. Raúl, as an undergraduate, studied social sciences. Whereas Fidel excelled as a student, Raúl turned in mostly mediocre performances.[10] Raúl became a committed socialist and joined the Socialist Youth, an affiliate of the Soviet-oriented Cuban Communist Party, Partido Socialista Popular (PSP).[11][12] The brothers participated actively in sometimes violent student actions.[13]

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 man in Havana.[11]

In 1953, Raúl served as a member of the 26th of July Movement group that attacked the Moncada Barracks, and he spent 22 months in prison as a result of this action.[14][15] During his exile in Mexico he participated in the preparations for the expedition of the boat Granma, landing in Cuba.

Commander in the Cuban Revolution[edit]

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
Raul Castro (second from left) is shown blindfolding a man to be shot by firing squad. Oriente Province, Cuba, circa 1958
Raul 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 21 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.[16]

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.[17] 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).[18]

After Batista's fall, Raúl had the task of overseeing the summary execution of scores of soldiers loyal to deposed president Batista.[19]

Political career[edit]

Early political career[edit]

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 has been a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and the Second Secretary of its Politburo since the Party's formation in October 1965; also, the First Vice President of the Cuban Council of State, of the National Assembly of the Popular Power and of the Council of Ministers since these were created 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.

Temporary assumption of Presidential duties[edit]

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, President of the Council of State of Cuba, President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to Raúl Castro while Fidel underwent and recovered from intestinal surgery to repair gastrointestinal bleeding.[20][21]

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.[19] 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.[22] 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.[23][24]

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."[25]

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.[26]

Raúl is known for his businesslike, unanimated delivery of speeches.[27]


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
Raúl Castro with Hugo Chávez, 2010
President Castro meets with U.S. President Barack Obama in Panama, 11 April 2015

After assuming temporary control over the presidency, Raúl Castro was elected as the new President of the Council of State 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.[28] 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.[29] In an effort to boost food production, the government turned over unused state-owned land to private farmers and cooperatives and moved much of the decision-making process regarding land use from the national level to the municipal level.[30]

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.[31] In addition, the government has removed restrictions against the use of cell phones and is investigating travel restrictions on Cubans.[29]

In regards to relations with the U.S., Raúl Castro said in an 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.[32]

In March 2009, Raúl Castro dismissed some officials.

In April 2011 Raúl announced a plan of 300 economic reforms similar to the Chinese economic model, among them are the limitation of presidential mandates including himself, encouraging private initiative, reducing state spending, encouraging foreign investment and agrarian reforms.

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.[33]

On 10 December 2013, Castro, in a significant moment shook hands and greeted American President Barack Obama at the Nelson Mandela memorial service in Johannesburg.[34]

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.[35][36]

Public and personal life[edit]

Castro married Vilma Espín, a former Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineering student and the daughter of a wealthy rum distiller, on 26 January 1959.[37] Vilma became president of the Cuban Federation of Women.[38] They have three daughters (Déborah, Mariela and Nilsa) and one son (Alejandro) Castro Espín.[39] 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.[40] Vilma Espín died on 18 June 2007; a daughter and some relatives of Raúl are believed to reside in Italy.

Family Tree of Raúl Castro.jpg

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".[41]

In an interview with actor Sean Penn, Raúl Castro was described as "warm, open, energetic and sharp of wit".[32]

Honours and awards[edit]


  1. ^ "Dictators in uniform". Filibuster cartoons. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "Kiev Ukraine News Blog". Kiev Ukraine. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  3. ^ "Orders, Decorations and Medals – - Medals of Cuba". Jean paul leblanc. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Antonio de la Cova. "Cuba Foreign Relations". Latin American Studies. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  5. ^ "Orders, Decorations and Medals, Medals of Cuba". Jean paul leblanc. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  6. ^ "Raúl Castro Ruz". Britanica. Retrieved 10 November 2008. 
  7. ^ a b "Fidel Castro announces retirement". BBC News. 18 February 2008. Retrieved 24 February 2008. 
  8. ^ "Raul Castro named Cuban president". BBC News. 24 February 2008. Retrieved 24 February 2008. 
  9. ^ Peter Orsi (24 February 2013). "Cuba's Raul Castro announces retirement in 5 years – Yahoo! News". News.yahoo.com. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  10. ^ José de Córdoba, David Luhnow and Bob Davis (2 August 2006). "Castro's Illness Opens Window on Cuba Transition". The Wall Street Journal. pp. 1, 12. 
  11. ^ a b Miguel A. Faria Jr. (15 August 2001). "Who is Raúl Castro? (Part I)". News Max. Retrieved 5 August 2006. 
  12. ^ Faria, Miguel. "Who Is Raul Castro? (Part II)". Retrieved 22 August 2001. 
  13. ^ "Revolutionary Firing Squads". 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2008. 
  14. ^ Rojas, Marta (4 September 2006). "When Raúl Castro assumed responsibility for the assault on the Moncada Garrison". 
  15. ^ Faria, Miguel. "Fidel Castro and the 26th of July Movement". Retrieved 27 July 2004. 
  16. ^ http://cuba1952-1959.blogspot.com/2009/12/1958-castro-rebels-take-us-hostages.html
  17. ^ Audio: Cuba Marks 50 Years Since 'Triumphant Revolution' by Jason Beaubien, NPR All Things Considered, 1 January 2009
  18. ^ John Pike. "The Spirit Of Moncada: Fidel Castro's Rise To Power, 1953 – 1959". Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  19. ^ a b Tim Padgett and Dolly Mascarenas (2 August 2006). "Why Raul Castro Could End Up a Reformer". Time. Retrieved 5 August 2006. 
  20. ^ Phillip Hart (30 July 2006). "From Castro to Castro". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 August 2006. 
  21. ^ "Fidel Castro Says Health Stable in Statement Read on State Television". FoxNews.com. 1 August 2006. Retrieved 5 August 2006. 
  22. ^ "Castro recovering and giving orders: Chavez". Reuters. 3 September 2006. 
  23. ^ Weekend Edition Saturday (2 December 2006). "Cuba Marks Belated Birthday for Ailing Castro". NPR. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  24. ^ "Raul Castro greets Chávez on Fidel's 80th birthday". 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2008. 
  25. ^ "Raul Castro 'not imitating Fidel'". BBC News. 21 December 2006. Retrieved 20 February 2008.  Check date values in: |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
  26. ^ "granma.cu – Millions of Cubans demand imprisonment for terrorist Posada Carriles". 2008. Archived from the original on 5 March 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2008. 
  27. ^ "Raul offers Cuba a quieter Castro voice - CNN.com". 2008. Archived from the original on 29 February 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2008. 
  28. ^ "Raul Castro elected president of Cuba_English_Xinhua". News.xinhuanet.com. 25 February 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  29. ^ a b Neill, Morgan (26 April 2008). "Raul Castro pushes change for Cubans". CNN. Retrieved 26 April 2008. 
  30. ^ Marc Frank, "Raúl Castro Overhauls Cuba's Farm Bureaucracy", Reuters News, 1 May 2008.
  31. ^ Frances Robles, "Cubans Who Work More Will Get Higher Salaries", Miami Herald, 12 June 2008.
  32. ^ a b "Conversations With Chávez and Castro". The Nation. 25 November 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  33. ^ "Cuba names Raul Castro to new term as president". Fox News. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  34. ^ "Nelson Mandela's memorial service". Daily Mail. 10 December 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  35. ^ "Cuba’s Half Century of Isolation to End". 
  36. ^ Baker, Peter (18 December 2014). "Obama Announces U.S. and Cuba Will Resume Relations". New York Times. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  37. ^ "Raul Castro Visited New Housing Project in Santiago de Cuba" Cuban News Agency via Cuban Radio. Retrieved 11 February 2009 from mathaba.net.
  38. ^ "TIME magazine Milestones". Time Magazine. 9 February 1959. Retrieved 14 November 2006. 
  39. ^ "Raúl Castro". Miami Herald. 1 August 2006. Retrieved 5 August 2006. 
  40. ^ "Trying to make the sums add up". The Economist. 11 November 2010. 
  41. ^ "The Fidel Castro mystery – Sentinel & Enterprise". 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2008. 


External links[edit]

Political offices
New office Minister of Defence
Succeeded by
Julio Casas Regueiro
First Vice President of Cuba
Succeeded by
José Ramón Machado Ventura
Preceded by
Fidel Castro
President of Cuba
Acting: 2006–2008

Party political offices
New office Second Secretary of the Communist Party
Succeeded by
José Ramón Machado Ventura
Preceded by
Fidel Castro
First Secretary of the Communist Party
Acting: 2006–2011

Military offices
Preceded by
Fidel Castro
Commander-in-Chief of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces
Acting: 2006–2008

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Fidel Castro
Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement
Succeeded by
Hosni Mubarak