For more than six decades, the Castro name has towered over Cuban politics and life. Now, that era is apparently coming to an end, with Raul Castro poised to step down Friday as the head of the country's ruling Communist Party, reports NBC News. The 89-year-old had taken over the secretary-general role, the island nation's most powerful position, from his brother, the late Fidel Castro, in 2011. Raul Castro had already given up his title of president a few years back, handing that job over in 2018 to his chosen successor, electrical engineer Miguel Diaz-Canel. Diaz-Canel is now set to be certified to take over the helm of the Communist Party during its eighth congress, starting Friday and continuing through Monday. Together, the Castro brothers had ruled over Cuba since the 1959 revolution, after which Fidel Castro became the country's prime minister.
Fidel Castro served in that role until 1976, when he became president. He officially gave up that role to his brother Raul in 2008, after years of health issues, then the secretary-general job three years later. Fidel Castro died in November 2016. Raul Castro was seen as the more "pragmatic" of the two, and the one more willing to consider reforms, though the Washington Post notes the "important period of political and economic change" he began was "one that never went far enough for most Cubans." Experts say he's expected to remain a huge influence, and many aren't anticipating major changes. "I believe in continuity," Diaz-Canel said back in 2018 on his vision for Cuba, which has been mired in economic woes from US sanctions and the pandemic, per CNN. Meanwhile, that same year, Raul Castro predicted what his role would be after he handed off to Diaz-Canel. "I will be just one more soldier with the people defending this revolution," he said. (Read more Raul Castro stories.)