HAVANA, CUBA (CBSMiami) – Cuban leader Raul Castro is not stepping down just yet. Something has changed.
According to El Nuevo Herald, the Cuban government announced Thursday he is postponing the historic election to choose the island nation’s next president.
Castro will stay as Cuba’s president at least until April 19, 2018, which is the date that they will celebrate the election of the new National Assembly members.
Castro had previously said he would retire in February.
The government blamed the two-month delay on recovery efforts from Hurricane Irma, but the University of Miami’s Acting Director of Cuban Studies Andy Gomez believes there’s more to it than the hurricane.
“This is to give Raul Castro more time to finalize deals on foreign investment to Cuba,” said Gomez.
Those deals, Gomez believes, are with Russia’s Vladimir Putin who is creating close ties to Cuba now that the United States is cooling relations.
“What we’re beginning to see is more Russian presence in Cuba,” said Gomez.
That presence includes Russian fuel shipments to the island and a $190 million agreement to send Russian-made railroad cars to Cuba.
Analysts believe Putin may be trying to undermine U.S. influence in its own backyard, as Castro steps down as president but remains head of Cuba’s Communist party.
No matter who is in power, President Trump has promised a hard-line approach when it comes to U.S.- Cuba policy.
“Hopefully, everything will be normal with Cuba but they don’t do the right thing and we won’t do the right thing, all there is to it. We have to be strong with Cuba. We’ll get Cuba straightened out,” said President Trump.
There is also speculation when it comes to the person likely to take over for Castro – the first vice president Miguel Díaz-Canel.
Some experts speculate he could possibly be seen by some party members as not having the necessary experience to take Castro’s place at this time.