Fidel Castro Resigns Cuban Presidency
By ANITA SNOW,
Posted: 2008-02-19 07:48:34
Filed Under: World News
HAVANA (Feb. 19) – An ailing Fidel Castro resigned as Cuba’s president Tuesday after nearly a half-century in power, saying he was retiring and will not accept a new term when the new parliament meets Sunday.
“I will not aspire to nor accept – I repeat, I will not aspire to nor accept – the post of President of the Council of State and Commander in Chief,” read a letter signed by Castro published early Tuesday in the online edition of the Communist Party daily Granma.
The announcement effectively ends the rule of the 81-year-old Castro after almost 50 years, positioning his 76-year-old brother Raul for permanent succession to the presidency. Fidel Castro temporarily ceded his powers to his brother on July 31, 2006, when he announced that he had undergone intestinal surgery.
Since then, the elder Castro has not been seen in public, appearing only sporadically in official photographs and videotapes and publishing dense essays about mostly international themes as his younger brother has consolidated his rule.
A new National Assembly was elected in January, and will meet for the first time Sunday to pick the governing Council of State, including the presidency that Fidel Castro has held since the assembly’s 1976 creation. Before 1976, Castro was president under a different government structure, and previously served as prime minister.
There had been wide speculation about whether Castro, Cuba’s unchallenged leader since 1959, would continue as president.”My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That’s what I can offer,” Castro wrote. But, he continued, “it would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer. This I say devoid of all drama.”
Castro said Cuban officials had wanted him to remain in power after his surgery. “It was an uncomfortable situation for me vis-a-vis an adversary that had done everything possible to get rid of me, and I felt reluctant to comply,” he said in a reference to the United States.
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