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Castro's brother always by his side

Siblings share ideology but have different personalities

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Raul Castro, right, assists his brother, Fidel, in December 2004.

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(CNN) -- Smaller, less of an ideologue and less charismatic than Fidel Castro, Raul Castro has nonetheless known for years that he was the man designated to take over from his older brother.

For years Raul Castro has talked about a post-Fidel Cuba under his leadership.

"Is there going to be a transition here towards something? Yes, towards a better form of socialism, and here's something you'll like: towards a more democratic society," Raul Castro has said.

But exactly what he means by more democratic is unclear.

Fidel Castro was undergoing intestinal surgery and provisionally handed over power to Raul, according to a statement read on Cuban television Monday night.

Both brothers were born in Mayari, Cuba, the sons of a Spanish immigrant who became a rich landowner, and the housemaid he eventually married.

Raul Castro was always by his brother's side, beginning with the 1950s uprising that brought Fidel Castro to power.

Since 1959, he has been Cuba's powerful minister of defense. He is also the first vice president of the Council of State and is the next in line to take over from Fidel Castro in case of death.

Different personalities

The two brothers share the same ideology but have very different personalities.

Raul Castro is said to have a more common touch and be more pragmatic than Fidel Castro.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, which left Cuba on the brink of bankruptcy and starvation, it was Raul Castro who insisted on allowing free-enterprise farmers' markets.

He declared that "beans have as much importance as cannons, if not more."

While Fidel Castro is rather stiff, Raul Castro is more down to earth, enjoying parties and always joking, according to those who've known him well.

Still, in many ways he is seen as more of a hard-liner than Fidel Castro.

During the early years of the revolution, Raul Castro earned a reputation for being ruthless with his enemies. That reputation remains, and many Cubans say it makes them afraid of how he might rule once in power.

Raul Castro has said that Fidel Castro would be a hard act to follow.

"No one will ever again have as much authority as Fidel Castro has had, because of who he is, because he made a true revolution," Raul Castro said.

Raul Castro is only five years younger than Fidel Castro and plagued by rumors about his own health.

Still, he says he will rule alongside the Communist Party, which he says is the only thing that can guarantee continuity.

Just in case, Raul Castro would also have the power of the military behind him.

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