While he didn’t say who would succeed him as first secretary of the Communist Party, he’s thought to favor 60-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, who succeeded him as president in 2018.
His brother Fidel ruled the small nation beginning with the 1959 revolution and ending in April of 2011 when Raul took his place.
News of the younger Castro’s potential departure surfaced on Thursday. He made the announcement Friday in a speech at the opening of the eighth congress of the ruling party, the only one allowed on the island.
He said he was retiring with the sense of having “fulfilled his mission and confident in the future of the fatherland.”
His resignation comes at a time of turmoil within the country and potentially more open relationships with its superpower neighbor, the United States.
The coronavirus pandemic, painful financial reforms and restrictions imposed by the Trump administration have battered the economy, which shrank 11% last year as a result of a collapse in tourism and remittances. Long food lines and shortages have brought back echoes of the “special period” that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
Towards the end of former President Trump’s tenure, his administration slapped additional sanctions on the country and labeled it a state-sponsor of terror.
“We are convinced that President Biden and his team know perfectly and recognize that Cuba is not and has not been a sponsor of terrorism,” Carlos Fernández de Cossío, director general of the United States department in Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, said at the time.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.