Fidel Castro resigns as Cuban president
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Fidel Castro, the Cuban president who seized power in a 1959 revolution, has stated in a quote in Cuba's state-run newspaper Granma that when the National Assembly of Cuba meets on February 24 he "will not aspire to or accept... the positions of President of Council of State and Commander in Chief."
81-year-old Castro handed over control to his 76-year-old brother Raúl when he underwent surgery in July 2006. "It would betray my conscience to take up a responsibility that requires mobility and total devotion, that I am not in a physical condition to offer," Castro explained.
United States President George W. Bush said, "I believe that the change from Fidel Castro ought to begin a period of democratic transition." Although, John Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State, said that this does not mean that the 1962 trade embargo will be lifted "any time soon."
European Union said that it hopes to improve relations with Cuba, which were almost at a standstill under Castro. Spokesperson John Clancy said the EU is willing to engage with Cuba in constructive dialogue to foster a peaceful transition to pluralistic democracy in Cuba.
China said it will maintain its current cooperation with Cuba and termed Fidel Castro an old friend. A spokesperson for the foreign ministry of Vietnam similarly praised Castro as a great friend and comrade.
BBC reports that Raúl Castro is seen by analysts as the likely choice as successor by the National Assembly, though some see 56-year-old Carlos Lage Dávila as potential candidate. Lage is currently Vice-President and Executive Secretary of the Council of Ministers.
The decision is scheduled for February 24, 2008.
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- Fidel Castro. Message from the Commander in Chief - Castro's letter in English. Granma, 19 February 2008.