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Raul Castro Fast Facts

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Here’s a look at the life of Raúl Castro, former President of Cuba.


Birth date: June 3, 1931

Birth place: Birán, Cuba

Birth name: Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz

Father: Ángel Castro, Spanish landowner

Mother: Lina Ruz, cook and maid to Angel Castro’s first wife

Marriage: Vilma Espin (1959-2007, her death)

Children: Mariela, Nilsa, Deborah and Alejandro

Education: Attended the University of Havana


1953 – Attempts, along with his older brother Fidel Castro, to overthrow the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, after which both are sentenced to 15 years in prison. They are released less than two years later as part of an amnesty for political prisoners. Both go into exile in Mexico.

January 1, 1959 – The Castros successfully overthrow the Batista government.

January 1959 – Three weeks after taking power, Fidel Castro states that his brother is to be his successor.

October 1959 – Fidel appoints Raúl to several prominent roles in his government including defense minister.

April 1961 – Castro’s troops defeat the CIA-led Bay of Pigs invasion.

1962 – Becomes deputy prime minister.

July 1962 – Visits the Soviet Union and signs a draft treaty agreeing to allow Soviet nuclear missiles to be installed in Cuba. This development leads to the US-Cuban Missile crisis.

1970s – Is involved in the military conflicts in Angola and Ethiopia.

1972 – Appointed first deputy prime minister (later called vice president).

1991 – Helps Cuba navigate a severe financial crisis after the fall of the Soviet Union.

October 1997 – Cuba’s Communist Party officially designates Raúl as Fidel’s successor should he die or be unable to perform his duties.

2001 – In an interview with Cuban state television, Castro says he’d like to see Cuba improve its relationship with the United States: “I am among those who believe that it would be in imperialism’s interest to try, with our irreconcilable differences, to normalize relations as much as possible during Fidel’s life.”

July 31, 2006 – Fidel temporarily hands over power to Raúl while undergoing intestinal surgery.

February 19, 2008 – Fidel, in a letter, resigns from office. This paves the way for the National Assembly to select Raúl as Cuba’s new leader.

February 24, 2008 – Castro is chosen by Cuba’s National Assembly to be the country’s new president.

December 2008 – Makes first international trip as president, visiting Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez.

March 2, 2009 – Reorganizes his Cabinet, replacing long-time aides to Fidel.

April 6, 2009 – Meets with visiting members of the US Congressional Black Caucus.

April 19, 2011 – Elected to succeed Fidel as first secretary of the Communist Party.

March 2012 – Pope Benedict XVI visits Cuba and meets Castro. The pontiff prays for “those deprived of freedom” and talks about human rights throughout his tour of the country.

February 24, 2013 – After being reelected by the National Assembly, Castro announces he will step down in 2018, at the end of his second five-year term.

December 17, 2014 – Cuba and the United States announce plans to renew diplomatic relations after a half-century of tension.

April 12, 2015 – Castro meets with US President Barack Obama during the Summit of the Americas in Panama.

May 10, 2015 – Meets Pope Francis. They talk for 50 minutes at the Vatican. Castro thanks the Pope for facilitating talks between Cuba and the United States. He later says he may rejoin the Catholic Church.

March 20-22, 2016 – During a historic trip to Cuba, Obama visits Castro to discuss human rights and ending the economic embargo. Obama is the first sitting president to visit Cuba since 1928, when Calvin Coolidge traveled to the island via boat.

November 25, 2016 – Announces the death of Fidel.

December 21, 2017 – Cuban officials announce that Castro will not retire as planned when his presidential term ends on February 24, 2018. Due to ongoing issues related to recovery from Hurricane Irma, the naming of Castro’s successor will be delayed until April 19, 2018, according to Cuban state-run media.

April 19, 2018 – Castro steps down as president of Cuba. After handing over the presidency to Miguel Díaz-Canel, Castro gives a speech at the Cuban National Assembly and says that presidential terms in Cuba should be limited to two 5-year terms.

April 10, 2019 – Speaking at a government event to ratify a new constitution, Castro criticizes increased US sanctions against Cuba and its ally Venezuela.

April 16, 2021 – Castro announces he is stepping down as head of Cuba’s communist party. Diaz-Canel takes the helm.

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