A Year In, Raúl's Cuba In Midst of New Revolution

Fidel's younger brother raises country's global profile, begins reform
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 24, 2009 6:27 AM CST
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro, left, in Moscow, Monday, Feb. 2, 2009.   (AP Photo/Alexei Nikolsky, Pool)
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(Newser) – Today marks the first anniversary of Raúl Castro's rise to the top of Cuban politics, and as the Miami Herald reports, he has lots to celebrate. Latin America's continuing leftward shift has seen regional leaders cozy up to Fidel's brother, and Russia has used Cuba to expand its presence in the western hemisphere. Castro might be in for even greater rewards if, as expected, Barack Obama overhauls American policy toward the island nation.

Domestically the new president has only begun reforms, and he remains less popular than his older brother among Cubans. But on the world stage Raúl has had a banner year, and Cuba watchers say he is succeeding in making America less relevant to islanders. "I don't think the Cubans are as focused on relations with the US as they once were," says one Massachusetts House member. "Why? Because they have multiple options."