Current leader of Cuba Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz was born on 3 June 1931 near Birán in Cuba as the sixth of seven children to a Spanish migrant and his Cuban wife. His father was a landowner and Raúl grew up on a farm. He went to school with his older brother Fidel Castro. They attended a Catholic school called La Salle boarding school, which was situated in Santiago, however because of bad behaviour they both were forced to change the school.
Later Raúl studied social sciences at a college in Santiago and Havana. After leaving the college, he worked in his father’s fields and also joined a group called Socialist Youth, which was an affiliate of the Soviet-oriented Cuban Communist Party, Partido Socialista Popular.
He also started to be active politically and took part in protests and violent student actions with his brother Fidel. Raúl became a devoted socialist and communist.
In 1953 Raúl helped his brother Fidel in an attempt to depose the repressive Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Their attack on a military base however failed and both brothers ended up in prison. They were both released after Batista’s amnesty in 1955.
Later Raúl together with his brother Fidel fled the country to Mexico to avoid another arrest. They met Che Guevara in Mexico and started to prepare a guerilla war from exile together. In 1959 they successfully overthrew the Batista regime and Raúl was appointed a Minister of the Revolutionary armed forces gaining soon a reputation of a hard-line communist due to a number of executions he ordered for Batista’s military officers.
Raúl played a significant role in shaping Cuba’s history. He served as the country’s defence minister from 1959 to 2008, during this time he also played a key role in the events leading to the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was appointed deputy prime minister in 1962 and he became first deputy prime minister in 1972. He was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and the Second Secretary of its Politburo since 1965. After the economic crisis in Cuba he implemented reforms to help the country to recover.
Ruling president of Cuba at that time, his brother Fidel, officially named Raúl his successor in October 1997. During the following decade Raúl began to take over of more responsibilities and in 2006 he was placed in charge of the Cuban government while his brother Fidel went through a surgery. Fidel Castro due to the high age and health problems surrendered all the state functions and went into seclusion. Fidel officially resigned two years later, in February 2008, and Raúl was chosen by the National Assembly to be the country’s new president.
Since his leadership of Cuba Raúl has shown himself more open to changes than his brother. He has implemented a number of social, economic and political reforms, including the lifting of restrictions on commerce and travel for its citizens, allowing for the privatization of portions of military and government infrastructure and opening the country to foreign investment.
He even refined the international relations to other states, especially the United States. For the first time in nearly 60 years embassies of the USA and Cuba are to be reestablished in both Havana and Washington, DC. In 2008, Raúl said in an interview: „The American people are among our closest neighbours. We should respect each other. We have never held anything against the American people. Good relations would be mutually advantageous. Perhaps we cannot solve all of our problems, but we can solve a good many of them.“
Raúl claimed that he will leave politics after the end of his term in presidency in 2018.