Fidel Castro stepping down as Cuba’s leader

Ailing revolutionary icon Fidel Castro permanently gave up the Cuban presidency on Tuesday, ending five decades of ironclad rule of the island marked by his brash defiance of the United States.

In a message published by the online version of the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma, the 81-year-old Castro said he would not seek the presidency again when it is decided later this week.

“I neither will aspire to nor will I accept — I repeat — I neither will aspire to nor will I accept, the position of president of the council of state and commander in chief,” Castro wrote, almost 19 months after undergoing intestinal surgery and handing power temporarily to his brother Raul Castro.

“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,” he said.

Castro did not say who he thought should be his successor as president, though most analysts believe his brother Raul Castro, 76, is the obvious choice.

But the elder Castro’s reference to a “middle generation” suggests that younger leaders such as Vice President Carlos Lage should not be ruled out.

The Cuban Revolution “also has the middle generation that learned together with us the elements of the complex, almost unknowable art of organizing and directing a Revolution,” Castro wrote, in what could be a hint at leaders to come.

Guerrilla revolutionary and communist idol, Castro held out against history and turned tiny Cuba into a thorn in the paw of the mighty capitalist United States.

The longest ruling leader in the Americas overthrew Fulgencio Batista to take power in 1959 and kept a tight clamp on dissent at home while defining himself abroad with his defiance of Washington.

He has said he would never retire from politics, though illness forced him into seclusion in the last 19 months.

Out of public sight since his surgery, seen only in videos and photos, Castro has often published columns in the Cuban media titled “Reflections of a commander in chief.”

“I am not saying farewell. I want only to fight as a soldier of ideas. I will continue writing under the title ‘Reflections of Comrade Fidel.’ I will be one more weapon in the arsenal that you can count on. Perhaps my voice will be heard. I will be careful,” he wrote Tuesday.

Castro’s message came just five days before a historic session in the National Assembly in which he was up for re-election for another five-year mandate.

Raul Castro said a month ago that the National Assembly would elect Cuba’s next president on February 24, amid speculation that his brother — for the first time in five decades — might not be its choice.

Cuba’s National Assembly speaker Ricardo Alarcon had said that while his recovery is ongoing, it was up to Fidel Castro to decide whether he will stay on as president, if reelected in February.

Some speculate Raul Castro may become president permanently or that another regime official might move up the ladder, technically ending Fidel Castro’s official dominance of the regime.

While Castro appeared to be in better health than a year ago, many Cuba-watchers believed he would never be able to resume the full, wide-ranging powers he used to wield.

Few, however, doubt that Fidel will remain influential.

Famed for his rumpled olive fatigues, straggly beard, and the cigars he reluctantly gave up for his health, Castro dodged all his enemies could throw at him in nearly half a century in power, including assassination plots, a US-backed invasion bid, and a punishing US trade embargo.

In Madrid, Spain’s Latin America minister Trinidad Jimenez said Castro’s decision to give up Cuba’s presidency will give his brother Raul more power to carry out reforms.

14 Responses to "Fidel Castro stepping down as Cuba’s leader"

  1. keith  February 19, 2008 at 8:34 am

    I really have to laugh.

    How many U.S. Presidential administrations (all trying desperately to get rid of him) has Castro now managed to outlive?

    I think his “revolution” dates back at least to the Eisenhower days. I know for a fact that Nixon once paid him a visit when he (Nixon) was Vice President.

    So, that would make it at least 11 Presidential administrations. And, by my count, he’s actually outlived at least 7 of our Presidents.

    What a joke!

  2. Flapsaddle  February 19, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Fidel Castro has outlasted Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, GHW Bush and Clinton – nine administrations.

    There is a certain karmic justice in Castro having survived the special efforts of the Kennedy boys to dispose of him…while they fall prey to assassins.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  3. bryan mcclellan  February 19, 2008 at 7:24 am

    Heres one for Smirkies legacy builders,we’ll be treated to the headline :Bush forces out Castro.HACK,HACK.SPIT.

  4. SEAL  February 19, 2008 at 9:04 am

    Keith: Castro seized power on new years day, 1959.

  5. SEAL  February 19, 2008 at 9:07 am

    Keith: Castro seized power on new years day, 1959

  6. griff  February 19, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Great! I see some Cuban cigars in our future!

  7. calico_jack  February 19, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Thank you for topping with this. Kosovo yesterday and this today. I really really appreciate it Doug/CHB that you lead with this and not with that manufactured Obama gaffe that everyone is so interested in. This is much more important. I wouldn’t have even known about this otherwise. It will be very interesting to see what happens next, the whole world has been wondering for a long time what will happen when Castro left/kicked it.

  8. Sandra Price  February 19, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    There will be little change as his brother will continue the dictatorship. This is important Jack, as our position in that area is precarious. Look at it this way:

    Communist China has the largest port in California. They also control both sides of the Panama Canal. We can thank Clinton for this arrangement. The Chinese built the largest storage facility in the Bahamas, with plenty of room for missiles. What does this do our our Security if China moves into Cuba?

    I heard from an old friend this morning who claims we Americans must democratize the other nations. He is a McCain supporter.

    WE MUST WAKE UP AND ASK QUESTIONS OF OUR CANDIDATES!!! Are we going down the tubes out of sheer ignorance?

  9. Flapsaddle  February 19, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    I’m not sure if I follow you?

    Communist China has the largest port in California.

    Are you refering to Long Beach-San Diego? Exactly how does the PRC “have” this facility?

    They also control both sides of the Panama Canal. We can thank Clinton for this arrangement.

    A Hong Kong based company has a 25-year lease on the two ports, but the lease was negotiated by the Government of Panama, not by the Clinton administration.

    The Chinese built the largest storage facility in the Bahamas, with plenty of room for missiles. What does this do our our Security if China moves into Cuba?

    If they mean us harm, then they can do it as well from the Bahamas as from Cuba. And China gets into Cuba only with the permission of the Cubans. Further, having once before been reamed over clandestine missiles, I rather doubt that the Cubans want to go through another “Missiles of October” crap-storm.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  10. JudyB  February 19, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    …”Are we going down the tubes out of sheer ignorance?”
    In my opinion, we are already in the tubes because sheer ignorance, and I don’t mean yours & mine, I’m speaking of government leaders past and most definitely the present.

  11. Sandra Price  February 19, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Flapsaddle you know exactly that what I posted is the truth. Get a map….Look at the proximity of the Panama Canal, Cuba and the Bahamas. Figure it out!

    Clinton turned the Canal over to Panama but he could have stopped the 99 year lease to China. Where were you during this time, when most Americans were horrified at the action? You certainly were not here as this was a major discussion.

    I’m quite certain that you can’t follow me and I don’t write for you anyway.

    Judy, I’m extremely worried about the government leaders in the future, in America and all over the globe. The last thing I want is for America to take on the Democritization of the world. This is apparently the plan of the Republicans. Our American ports and even the seas surrounding our shores are not secure. This doesn’t seem to bother many people including Flasaddle. This poster is a pest.

  12. Flapsaddle  February 19, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Mapreading is not a problem for me. I asked you to explain how the PRC “has” the San Diego-Long Beach port area; I believe the question is reasonable one.

    Clinton turned the Canal over to Panama but he could have stopped the 99 year lease to China.

    According to all of the history that I can find, the transfer of control of the canal from the US to Panama started with the Carter administration and was negotiated with Panama’s leader, Omar Torrijos; it was an ongoing process that concluded on 31 December 1999. There was some strong discussion on the treaty about keeping the canal neutral as a condition of the final transfer.

    The lease on the ocean ports was concluded by negotiation between Panama and China prior to the final transfer; the Clinton administration was not involved. Further, I believe that you will find that the leases on the ports were for 25 years, not 99.

    Where were you during this time, when most Americans were horrified at the action? You certainly were not here as this was a major discussion.

    CHB may be the oldest political forum on the net, but it certainly is not the only one. At that time, I was following the very lively and very favorable view of the transfer on the old Nation magazine forum.

    I’m quite certain that you can’t follow me and I don’t write for you anyway.

    CHB is a public forum and I believe that I am within my rights to ask a question about any post that appears.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  13. griff  February 19, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Come on now T.J. We don’t need these messy facts and logical, adult reasoning getting in the way of childish and irrational diatribes! Shame on you! Shame on you all for thinking!

  14. Flapsaddle  February 19, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    I don’t see what I asked as being unreasonable. Did I miss something?

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

Comments are closed.