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Cuban President Raul Castro has announced that the island nation is preparing for a post-Castro era  adding that he will resign in five years and institute term limits

He also replaced his No. 2 with a younger Cuban who would be poised to rule if something were to befell Mr. Castro before his second term ends in five years – the first time the nation would be led by someone who did not directly fight in the 1959 Cuban revolution.

Castro himself told lawmakers the nation was at a moment of “historic transcendence.”

William LeoGrande, a Cuba expert at American University however notes that  the generational transition underway faces several risks as Cuba inches forward with reforms to save its economy.

“One risk is that it fails, that resistance from… party bureaucrats prevents the government from carrying out reform,” he says. “The other is that the reforms will work but they create both winners and losers, that they’ll intensify economic inequality and undermine the social safety network that Cuba has been so proud of.”

Raul Castro, who temporarily took over from his ailing brother Fidel Castro in 2006 and permanently two years later, has long been considered the more practical of the Castro brothers. In just under seven years he has already ushered in historic change, introducing a legalized real estate market, an end to travel restrictions, and more permissions for private businesses.

Raul Castro

He had long said he was committed to generational change in top leadership but his words were never followed by action.The Castro brothers have preserved legitimacy in Cuba for several reasons, including free healthcare and education for all. But much of it came from the direct role that government officials played in the successful revolution that overthrew a US-backed regime that was widely unpopular.