-- Raul Castro will step down as Cuba's president on April 19, 2018, he announced Thursday during the National Assembly meeting in Havana.
Raul Castro announced in 2013 that this would be his last five-year term as president. The Castro brothers fought alongside each other in the Cuban Revolution and have ruled the island since overthrowing dictator Fulgencio Batista on New Year's Day in 1959.
2018 will be the first year that the island has not had a Castro as president in nearly 60 years. Raul Castro's presumed successor is Miguel Diaz-Canel, the country's current vice president. The fact that a Castro will no longer be the country's president could result in a further opening with the U.S., as the Libertad Act of 1996, which strengthened the U.S. embargo against Cuba, lists as one of its requirements for a transition government that it "not include Fidel Castro and Raul Castro," among many other factors. Raul Castro will stay on as head of the Communist Party for the next few years.
During his second term, President Obama worked with Raul Castro to thaw the historically chilly relations between the two countries. The U.S. and Cuba re-established diplomatic relations in 2014, which led to the reopening of their embassies and the lifting of some travel restrictions. The U.S. has maintained an embargo against Cuba in one form or another since the Eisenhower administration.
While Obama did not end the embargo -- which can only be done by Congress -- he did sign multiple bilateral agreements with Raul Castro on major issues including drug trafficking, maritime security and migration.