Cuba 19/02 19:43 CET Raul comes out from under Fidel's shadow
Raul Castro has long lived in the shadow of his older brother, but analysts say he is definitely his own man with different ideas and skills.
Raul was Fidel's trusted right-hand man through the failed assault on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago in 1953, the guerilla war in the Sierra Maestra Hills and the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Ever since, observers say Raul's organising skills helped keep Fidel in power, transforming their guerilla force into one of the most formidable armies in the Third World.
Raul, who is now 76, is the world's longest-serving defence minister, having commanded the Cuban armed forces since the revolution. He was officially designated his brother's successor at a Communist party congress in 1997, and since then Fidel has always referred to him as such.
Despite often being described as lacking political charisma, Raul's public profile has grown in recent years. For example, he led a campaign to reform the Communist party and the army.
The number of soldiers was cut from 300,000 down to 60,000 after the collapse of the Soviet Union threw Cuba into a severe economic crisis. He also guided Cuba towards various trials in free market reform, and is said to have shown interest in how China manages this when he visited Beijing in 1997. However, the jury is still out on whether Cuba will radically change direction under Raul's rule.
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