Tuesday, February 19, 2008

:: Castro resigns



Castro resigns as president

Castro has been suffering from ill health for the past couple of years. Fidel Castro has resigned as the president of Cuba after nearly 50 years in power, according to a statement in the official Communist newspaper, Granma.

Castro, 81, and with a stomach illness, had temporarily handed power over to his brother 19 months ago, but Tuesday's statement indicates he will not attempt to retake the leadership. A statement by Castro published on the newspaper's website read: "I neither will aspire to nor will I accept, the position of president of the council of state and commander in chief.

His stepping down is likely to be welcomed by the US, although most Cubans have known no other leader. Castro's statement comes five days before the country's national assembly session in which he was up for re-election for another five-year mandate.

"It would betray my conscience to take up a responsibility that requires mobility and total devotion, that I am not in physical condition to offer," Castro wrote.

Al Jazeera's correspondent Gabriel Elizondo reported that, even though Castro's announcement was expected, his resignation is a "final turning over of power".

Speaking from Sao Paulo, Brazil, he said that the iconic revolutionary commander has generally been viewed as a "real leader" in the Americas and carries a prominent legacy with him.

The assembly is likely to nominate Raul, Castro's brother, as president when it meets on February 24. Castro has not appeared in public since 2006. Socialist iconCastro's retirement brings an end to a political career that survived the Cold war, assassination attempts by the CIA, nine US presidents and the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Profile: Fidel Castro
He came to power in 1959 in a Communist revolution that overthrew the then president Fulgenico Bautista. He became an icon of socialism and a staunch opponent of the US which led to a crippling political and economic blockade of the Caribbean island. Al Jazeera's correspondent David Hawkins said the US would welcome the permanent departure from power of Castro, but with Raul in position, relations between the two countries will remain severed.
"Castro is a living piece of history while his brother Raul does not have his same stature," Hawkins said. Castro is admired in the developing world for standing up to the US, but is accused by his opponents of suppressing freedom.

Source: Al jazeera and agencies

Profile: Fidel Castro (18 Dec 2007)
Cubans vote as Castro remains ill (20 Jan 2008)
Castro: I'm too ill for public life (16 Jan 2008)
Fidel Castro 'getting healthier' (25 Dec 2007)
Castro hints at stepping aside (18 Dec 2007)