Cuban leader Raúl Castro announced yesterday in his address to Cuba's parliament that he will definitively step down from his position on April 19, 2018, when his successor will be named by the Politburo. This will be the first time since February 16, 1959, when brother Fidel Castro was sworn in as Cuban prime minister almost six decades ago, that the country's leader will not be named Castro. A report by CNN provided most of the facts presented in this piece.

End of Castro's two terms

Raúl Castro has held power since 2006 when Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother in a temporary capacity due to medical problems.

Raúl Castro officially took office in 2008, and the April 19 resignation date will mark the end of his second of two five-year terms. Initially, Castro had announced intentions to resign by February 24, but the National Assembly of Cuba elected to extend his office until April 19, reportedly due to delays in legislative elections caused by damages inflicted by Hurricane Irma.

Going forward

First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel is viewed as a possible successor, although Raúl Castro will remain First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party until 2021, and is likely to still play a major role in Cuban politics. In a leaked closed-door government meeting, Díaz-Canel is quoted by CNN to have said "It was the government of the US that invaded Cuba, that put the blockade...They have to resolve these things to have normalized relations.

We don't have to give anything in exchange." Given his strongly Marxist/Leninist background, substantial Cuban political reform under Díaz-Canal seems unlikely, although in an interview for CBS Miami, University of Miami Professor Jaime Suchlicki expressed hope that some reforms brought about during Raúl Castro's power, such as increased communication and improved ease of travel, will remain and continue to grow.

Díaz-Canel will celebrate his 58th birthday on April 20, just one day after the Politburo announces Castro's successor, and, if elected, will be much younger than either of Cuba's previous two leaders.

According to CNN, Cuban officials report that, at the end of his term, Raúl Castro will enjoy quasi-retirement while still retaining his role as First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party.

It is reported that he plans to live in Santiago de Cuba, where his brother Fidel Castro was buried. Former Cuban diplomat Carlos Alzugaray said in an interview with CNN that "I think he will exercise some control in the background...But he will basically tell Diaz-Canel 'This is your ballgame. You decide.'"