Castro hangs up boots after five decades
CUBA: 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 one-man defiance of the United States.
Eighteen months after he was stricken with illness, the 81-year-old
Castro said in a message published by the official media that he would
not accept the presidency again.
"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 a severe illness caused him to hand power temporarily to his
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 might become president on a permanent basis or that another top
regime official might move up the ladder, technically ending Fidel
Castro's official dominance of the regime. Few, however, doubt Fidel
would remain influential in the latter case.
While Fidel Castro appears to be in better health than a year ago,
many Cuba-watchers believe he would not be able to resume the full,
wide-ranging powers he used to wield. Some analysts believed he might
continue to remain head of state on paper, essentially acting as a kind
of behind-the-scenes guardian of the 1959 revolution while leaving other
top communist officials to deal with the day-to-day work.
Guerrilla revolutionary and communist idol, Fidel Castro held out
against history and turned tiny Cuba into a thorn in the paw of the
mighty capitalist United States. The Cuban president, who overthrew
Fulgencio Batista and took power in 1959, had said he would never retire
from politics, and though illness forced him into seclusion in the final
months of his presidency.
Famed for his rumpled olive fatigues, straggly beard and the cigars
he reluctantly gave up for his health, Castro kept a tight clamp on
dissent at home while defining himself abroad with his defiance of
A great survivor and a firebrand, if windy orator, 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.
Havana, Tuesday, AFP