Raul Castro announced in a speech on Sunday that he plans to step down as Cuba's president when his second five-year term ends in 2018. Fidel's little brother is getting old — he's 81 now — and it's time to start thinking about Cuba's future. That future, Castro said in his speech, is going to look a lot more like Western democracies with term limits and age caps for political office. Castro also proposed changes to the constitution that would require the people's vote to ratify it. Of course, the biggest change of all is that, for the first time in the 51 years since the revolution, Cuba will almost certainly get a leader whose last name is not Castro.
There had been some talk in the past about grooming a younger member of the Castro family to take over for Raul, but it looks like that job will now go to Miguel Diaz-Canel. An electrical engineer and former higher education minister, Diaz-Canel was elected on Sunday to become the first ever vice president to Castro, and more than likely, president in five years. The 52-year-old will also be the first person to hold such a high office in Cuba without having fought in the revolution. If Diaz-Canel does make it to the country's highest office, there is a chance that the United States' 51-year-long economic embargo on Cuba which stipulates that it must remain in place while a Castro is president of Cuba.
Castro was careful to say that not too much will change when he steps down. "I was not chosen to be president to restore capitalism to Cuba," he said. "I was elected to defend, maintain and continue to perfect socialism, not destroy it." Castro added that Diaz-Canel's new position "represents a definitive step in the configuration of the future leadership of the nation through the gradual and orderly transfer of key roles to new generations."