Today in History: Raul Castro Is Named President After Fidel Steps Down

Today in History: Raul Castro Is Named President After Fidel Steps Down

by M.C. Millman 

After running communist Cuba for close to half a century, Fidel Castro, age 81, announced on February 19, 2008, he would step, making way for his brother Raul's rise to power. 

The announcement was released overnight in the online edition of the Cuban Communist Daily paper Granma.

In his letter, Fidel said, "My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That's all I can offer. But it would be a betrayal of my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer."

Fidel's presidency survived efforts by no less than ten United States presidents to bring him down, which included a missile crisis in 1962 that nearly resulted in nuclear war.

Raul Castro, age 76, was appointed to a five-year term as Cuba's new president in Fidel's place five days later, on February 24, 2008, by Cuba's parliament.

Raul had been acting president since July 2006 due to his brother's illness and was stepping into the shoes of the world's longest-serving political leader. After being second in command to his brother, his credentials were strong enough to get him ratified by Cuba's parliament. 

The peaceful transition meant that the communist party remained in power, and the much hoped for dramatic democratic changes Cuban exiles had hoped for evaporated overnight as it meant that Castor's rule didn't end but was simply extended. 

When he was appointed president, Raul announced that he would step down from power after his second term as president ended in 2018. Castro kept his promise, and in 2018, he stepped away from the presidency. His hand-picked successor, Miguel Díaz-Canel, won the National Assembly vote, and Cuba was no longer under a Castro-brother leadership for the first time in nearly 60 years.

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