Son of Spanish immigrant Ángel Castro and Lina Ruz, a Cuban woman of Galician ancestry, Raúl is the youngest of the three Castro brothers. He also has four sisters, Angela, Juanita, Enma, and Agustina, and two half siblings, Lidia and Pedro Emilio, who were raised by Ángel Castro's first wife. Persistent rumors supported by former CIA analyst Brian Latell are taken to suggest that Batista army loyalist Felipe Miraval, nicknamed "el Chino" is Raúl's, but not Fidel's, father. As youngsters, the Castro brothers were expelled from the first school they attended. Like Fidel, Raúl later attended the Jesuit School of Colegio Dolores in Santiago and Colegio Belén in Havana. Raúl, as an undergraduate, studied social sciences. Whereas Fidel excelled as a student, Raúl's performance was mostly mediocre. Raúl was a committed socialist and joined the Socialist Youth, an affiliate of the Soviet-oriented Cuban Communist Party, Partido Socialista Popular (PSP). The brothers participated actively in sometimes violent student political actions. In 1953, Raúl was a member of the 26th of July Movement that attacked the Moncada Barracks, and he spent 22 months in prison as a result of this action. During his exile in Mexico, he participated in the preparations of the expedition of the ship Granma, embarking for Cuba on December 2, 1956. It was during the period in Mexico that Raúl reportedly befriended Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Mexico City and brought him into Fidel's circle of revolutionaries. Raúl also established contact with Soviet KGB agent Nikolai Leonov, whom he had met two years earlier during a trip to the Soviet-bloc nations. That relationship would persist until the Castro brothers successfully assumed power in Cuba.
A Commander in the Cuban Revolution
Raul was one of the few survivors of the disastrous Grama landing. He was part of the tiny group of survivors who managed to reach a safe haven in the Sierra Maestra mountains (see the Cuban Revolution). As Fidel's brother and trusted right-hand man he was given progressively bigger commands. On February 27, 1958, Raul was made comandante and assigned the mission to cross the old province of Oriente leading a column of guerrillas to open, to the northeast of that territory, the "Frank País Eastern Front." As a result of Raul's "Eastern Front" operations he was not involved in the pivotal Operation Verano (which came close to destroying the main body of fighters but ended up a spectacular victory for Fidel). However, Raul's forces remained active and grew over time. By October 1958, after being reinforced by Fidel, the two brothers had about 2,000 fighters and they were operating freely throughout Oriente province. In December, while Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos were operating around Santa Clara, Fidel and Raul's army laid siege to Maffo (capturing it on December 30th). Their victorious army then headed to Santiago de Cuba, the capital of Oriente province. Thanks to the loss of Santa Clara, Batista fled Cuba on night of December 31-January 1. The two Castro brothers with their army arrived on the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba and said their forces would storm the city at 6 PM January 1 if it did not first surrender. The commander (Colonel Rego Rubido) surrendered Santiago de Cuba without a fight. The war was over and Fidel was able to take power in Havana when he arrived on January 6, 1959. Raul's abilities as a military leader during the revolution are hard to see clearly. Unlike Che Guevara or Cienfuegos, Raul had no significant victories he could claim credit for on his own. The last operations (which were clearly successful) were conducted with his older brother Fidel present (and in command). After Batista's fall, Raul was responsible for overseeing the summary execution of "scores" of soldiers loyal to deposed president Fulgencio Batista
Raúl Castro Ruz was a member of the National Leadership of the Integrated Revolutionary PO Organizations (established July 1961; dissolved March 1962) and of the United Party of the Socialist Revolution of Cuba (established March 1962; dissolved October 1965). He has been a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and the Second Secretary of its Politburo since the Party's formation in October 1965; also, the First Vice President of the Cuban Council of State, of the National Assembly of the Popular Power and of the Council of Ministers since these were created in 1976. He was appointed Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces when the Ministry was founded in October 1959 and served in that capacity until February 2008; he is also the nation's highest ranking general. Castro is credited with persuading his older brother to implement agricultural market reforms in the early 1990s which increased the food supply, after the Soviet Union fell and its generous subsidies to Cuba stopped.
Public persona and personal life
A few weeks after the 1959 victory, Castro married Vilma Espín Guillois, a former MIT chemical engineering student and veteran of the revolution who in 1960 became president of the Cuban Federation of Women. They have three daughters (Déborah, Mariela and Nilsa) and one son (Alejandro). Their daughter Mariela currently heads the Cuban National Center for Sex Education. Vilma Espín died on June 18, 2007, a daughter and some relatives of Raul are believed to reside in Italy. In an interview in 2006, following his assumption of presidential duties, Raúl Castro commented on his public profile stating: "I am not used to making frequent appearances in public, except at times when it is required … I have always been discreet, that is my way, and in passing I will clarify that I am thinking of continuing in that way."