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Military officer and politician. Born on June 3, 1931, near Birán, Cuba, Raul has spent much of his life in the shadow of his older brother Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary leader. One of five children, Raul was the son of a Spanish landowner and grew up on his father's farm. He went to school briefly before being expelled. After leaving school, Raul went to work in his father's fields. As a young man, he joined a socialist political group and attended a conference for communist youth in Vienna, Austria, in 1935.
Politically, Raul has almost always been at his brother's side. He helped Fidel in his first attempt to unseat Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1953. The two brothers ended up in prison after a failed attack on a military base. They later fled to Mexico, only to return to Cuba in 1956 to try once again to overthrow Batista. Over the next few years, Raul assisted his brother in many ways, including by leading a group of guerrilla fighters. Eventually, Batista left the country and Fidel took power. After the revolution, Raul became head of the armed forces and ordered the execution of 100 Batista military officers.
Along with running Cuba's military, Raul was appointed deputy prime minister in 1962 and first deputy prime minister in 1972. He went on to serve as first vice president of council of the state and council of ministers. Raul is considered the world's longest serving defense minister. He now commands more than 45,000 soldiers and has expanded the military's reach into many aspects of the Cuban economy.
It has long been apparent that Fidel wanted to his brother to lead Cuba after his death. Fidel officially made Raul his successor in October 1997. Fidel's health has been a topic of hot debate and rumors for a number of years. In 2006, Fidel put Raul in charge of the Cuban government while he underwent surgery for gastrointestinal bleeding. This was the first time that Fidel had handed over power and it spurred on more speculation that Fidel's health is declining.
Raul is seen by many as an austere military leader and has been described as being more radical than Fidel. Many critics think that Raul lacks Fidel's charisma and that he will have difficulty taking maintaining political control once he takes over. Some people think, however, he may be more open to economic reform than his brother. The entire world is watching to see what Raul will do once he steps out of his brother's shadow.
In early 2013, however, Raul Castro announced plans to step out of the political spotlight all together.
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