Raul Castro, President of Cuba

"Fidel is being replaced by a younger, sexier Castro: His younger brother Raul. Is this even possible? Can you imagine a country run by one family for years and years and years? That could never happen here.(United States)" --Craig Ferguson

Raul Castro

The name Castro has been synonymous with a communist Cuba for the past half century. However, usually the first name that comes to mind is Fidel, and not Raul. Raul Castro was designated as the successor for Fidel in October of 1997. When this was announced, from an article in BBC News, Fidel was quoted as saying at a Communist Party Congress "Raul is younger than I, more energetic that I. He can count on much more time".  Raul Castro was temporarily put into power in 2006, while Fidel Castro underwent surgery. He was officially placed into power in February of 2008. In an article for the New York Times, Simon Romero reported soon after the official change of power that “Mr. Castro made it clear that he would make no radical changes and promised to consult his brother on every important decision.”. In 2008, Raul Castro was placed at number eighteen, as a dishonorable mention, on Parade Magazines worst dictator list. This past year he moved up the ranks to spot number thirteen. Parade magazine reported “An estimated 5,000 Cuban citizens are serving sentences for “dangerousness.” What exactly has made these Cubans so dangerous, or is it just a method of a fear based rule?

Raul Castro

Cuba gained its original independence in 1903 by the United States. The original terms and conditions of this independence changed in 1934, when the Platt Amendment changed.  The United States still kept the Guantanamo Bay military base, while Cuba was allowed more freedom and trade with the United States. Fidel Castro, along with his brother Raul, organized a movement to, now what seems to be ironic, overthrow the communist dictator, Fulgencio Batista in an event titled "26th of July Movement". Fidel Castro successfully took power, and insisted on a one-party Communist government. As Fidel Castro moved more into the communist ideals, relations with the United States weakened. In 1961, President Eisenhower along with Congress passed a law that prohibited any trade between Cuba and the United States. Over time, the United States made many changes to the restrictions on Cuba. Recently, in a gathering of the United Nations, Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roughe states, "The U.S. government has unleashed a world wide genocidal economic war against Cuba. It is the government of a large and mighty empire, but it is afraid of the example of a small rebellious island." As reported by J. Sierra in the History of Cuba.

Raul CastroRaul Castro

It is this very school of thought, that Cuba is a ‘small rebellious island’ that keeps people like Raul and Fidel Castro in power. Raul was always Fidel’s right hand man, yet was relatively quiet through out Fidel’s rule. Born in 1931, Raul Castro spent the majority of his life running the Cuban military. Mixed messages have been relayed over time of exactly what type of ruler Raul is. In an article for Time Magazine in 2006, Tim Padgett reported that “Raul is also called “the practical Castro” and when and if he does succeed Fidel permanently, many Cuba watchers speculate that he’ll actually bring a less confrontational, more reform-minded rule to the communist island.”  In a contradiction of this thought, Fidel in a Communist Party Congress in 2006 also said “Behind me are others more radical than I”, referring to his brother. So, who exactly is Raul Castro? Will he be the leader that will bring about change for Cuba or become more radical than his infamous brother?

Raul Castro

In many ways, Raul Castro has followed in his brother’s footsteps, especially with U.S. relations. Recently, in an article for The Washington Examiner, Will Weissert reports that Raul Castro has publicly criticized President Obama’s policy on Cuban relations. “The Cuban president suggested the communist government is not willing to appease Washington by embracing small political and social reforms on the island, saying in a speech before an international gathering of government ministers that "it is not Cuba who has to make gestures." On the other side, Raul has shown ways in which he is being more liberal than his brother. Weissert wrote another article for the Huffington Post in 2008, reporting that Raul Castro is now allowing his citizens to have cellular telephones. “Raul Castro is revolutionizing his brother's island in small but significant ways, the latest in a decree Friday allowing ordinary Cubans to have cell phone service, a luxury previously reserved for the select few. The new president could be betting greater access to such modern gadgets will quell demand for deeper change.”

So, the question still remains on whether or not Raul Castro will revolutionize Cuba or continue with the same restrictive regime his brother instilled almost fifty years ago. Raul Castro has moved up on Parade Magazines worst dictator list, although with still a dishonorable mention. Many Cubans were instilled with hope, when Fidel appointed his brother to power. With subtle, but major leaps such as the allowance of cellular phones, the Cuban population has been teased with thoughts of freedom. Currently, there is no successor named for who comes after Raul. Raul Castro still has the ability and the power to make great changes. Even though, Raul is still the one named in power, it is very clear through no major changes being made, that is only under the consultation of his brother, Fidel.