Fidel Castro Resigns as Cuban President.

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asthenia.
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February 19th, 2008 at 05:35pm
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Fidel Castro, ailing and 81, announced Tuesday he was resigning as Cuba's president, ending a half-century of autocratic rule which made him a communist icon and a relentless opponent of U.S. policy around the globe.

The end of Castro's rule - the longest in the world for a head of government - frees his 76-year-old brother Raul Castro to implement reforms he has hinted at since taking over as acting president when Fidel fell ill in July 2006.

President Bush said he hopes the resignation signals the beginning of a democratic transition, though he doubts that would come about under the rule of another Castro. The State Department denigrated the change as a "transfer of authority and power from dictator to dictator light."

Castro temporarily ceded his powers to his brother on July 31, 2006, when he announced that he had undergone intestinal surgery. Since then, he 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 consolidated his rule.

"My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath," Castro wrote in a letter published Tuesday in the online edition of the Communist Party daily Granma. But "it would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer."

In Washington, the government said it had no plans to change U.S. policy or lift its embargo on Cuba.

Bush, traveling in Rwanda, pledged to "help the people of Cuba realize the blessings of liberty." But he implied that wasn't likely under Raul Castro.

"The international community should work with the Cuban people to begin to build institutions that are necessary for democracy," he said. "Eventually, this transition ought to lead to free and fair elections - and I mean free, and I mean fair - not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as true democracy."

If Cuba remains much the same, "political prisoners will rot in prison and the human condition will remain pathetic in many cases," Bush said.

The United States built a detailed plan in 2005 for American assistance to ensure a democratic transition on the island of 11.2 million people after Castro's death. But Cuban officials have insisted that the island's socialist political and economic systems will outlive Castro.

"The adversary to be defeated is extremely strong," Castro wrote Tuesday. "However, we have been able to keep it at bay for half a century."

Peter Kornbluh, senior analyst at George Washington University's National Security Archive, said the resignation will allow the next U.S. president to adopt a totally new approach toward dialogue and civil relations with a post-Fidel Cuba.

"Fidel Castro's resignation does present a true opportunity to revisit a U.S. policy of perpetual antagonism towards Cuba, even though the current U.S. president is unlikely to make any changes in a hostile position towards Cuba," he said.

Castro has been Cuba's unchallenged leader since 1959. Monarchs excepted, he was the world's longest ruling head of state.

There had been widespread speculation about whether he would continue as president when the new National Assembly meets Sunday to pick the country's top leadership, the Council of State which will be headed by the new Cuban president. 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.

Castro remains a member of parliament and is likely to be elected to the 31-member Council of State on Sunday, though he will no longer be its president. He also retains his powerful post as first secretary of Cuba's Communist Party.

The resignation opens the path for Raul Castro's succession to the presidency, and the full autonomy he has lacked in leading a caretaker government.

The younger Castro has raised expectations among Cubans for modest economic and other reforms, saying last year that the country requires unspecified "structural changes" and acknowledging that government wages averaging about $19 a month do not meet basic needs.

As first vice president of Cuba's Council of State, Raul Castro was his brother's constitutionally designated successor and appears to be a shoo-in for the presidential post when the council meets Sunday. More uncertain is who will be chosen as Raul's new successor, although 56-year-old council Vice President Carlos Lage, who is Cuba's de facto prime minister, is a strong possibility.

Castro rose to power on New Year's Day 1959 and reshaped Cuba into a communist state 90 miles from U.S. shores.

The fiery guerrilla leader survived assassination attempts, a CIA-backed invasion and a missile crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. Ten U.S. administrations tried to topple him, most famously in the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.

His ironclad rule ensured Cuba remained communist long after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism across Eastern Europe.

Castro's supporters admired his ability to provide a high level of health care and education for citizens while remaining fully independent of the United States. His detractors called him a dictator whose totalitarian government systematically denied individual freedoms and civil liberties such as speech, movement and assembly.

The United States was the first country to recognize Castro's government, but the countries soon clashed as Castro seized American property and invited Soviet aid.

On April 16, 1961, Castro declared his revolution to be socialist. A day later, he defeated the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion. The United States squeezed Cuba's economy and the CIA plotted to kill Castro. Hostility reached its peak with the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

The collapse of the Soviet Union sent Cuba into economic crisis, but the economy recovered in the late 1990s with a tourism boom.


The question is this:
Do you think this may be the first step towards democracy in Cuba?
How long do you think Raul Castro will be in office before he's replaced as well?
And how do you think this may affect trade and international relations?
Discuss!
Franny.
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February 19th, 2008 at 06:29pm
Well the embargo hasn't lifted yet and apparently won't for some time, so nothing immediate has changed. But I think this will be the first step towards some sort of democratic government for Cuba. If only he lasted another year he would've ruled for a full half a century, that's a long time.

Let's hope Raul will help Cuba in the areas that needs to be fixed. I hear he's open to better relations with the States, that has to be a good thing.
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February 19th, 2008 at 09:41pm
hahahahaha their Vice President/prime minister has the same name as my father XD

...

o_o
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February 20th, 2008 at 12:52pm
there will soon be a mcdonalds and starbucks on every corner, shame i would have like to have visited before it becomes like all the other islands.
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February 21st, 2008 at 01:04am
NeoSteph:
there will soon be a mcdonalds and starbucks on every corner, shame i would have like to have visited before it becomes like all the other islands.


Ahaha my friend said the exact same thing =P Very agreeable though.
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February 21st, 2008 at 10:25am
I don't think that there will be any noticeable change in the forseeable future.
Raúl has already been running the country for 2 years. However, considering his age, I don't think he will be in power for very long. No doubt Castro will be remembered as a thorn in the side of the American government. Which is a good or a bad thing, depending on personal perspective.
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February 21st, 2008 at 07:33pm
Franny.:
NeoSteph:
there will soon be a mcdonalds and starbucks on every corner, shame i would have like to have visited before it becomes like all the other islands.


Ahaha my friend said the exact same thing =P Very agreeable though.


I disagree,
If I recall correctly, the US put sanctions on Cuba which more or less stopped all international trade with Cuba. If that's still in affect, I don't think major American based companies will have a monopoly on it's food commerce.
And if it's not, well, you have 50 plus years of Militaristic Communism to undo which will be a very long and difficult road. Look at Russia, the Iron Curtain has been down for 17 years and yet things in Russia are in a very bad way economically, socially and governmentally .
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February 22nd, 2008 at 12:47am
Maiku's Kind Ghost:
Franny.:
NeoSteph:
there will soon be a mcdonalds and starbucks on every corner, shame i would have like to have visited before it becomes like all the other islands.


Ahaha my friend said the exact same thing =P Very agreeable though.


I disagree,
If I recall correctly, the US put sanctions on Cuba which more or less stopped all international trade with Cuba. If that's still in affect, I don't think major American based companies will have a monopoly on it's food commerce.
And if it's not, well, you have 50 plus years of Militaristic Communism to undo which will be a very long and difficult road. Look at Russia, the Iron Curtain has been down for 17 years and yet things in Russia are in a very bad way economically, socially and governmentally .


It's true the sanctions are still in effect, but as someone has said earlier, Raul has already been running the country for some time now, and it's known that he's going towards the direction of capitalistic values and better the relations with America.

Russia had always had a poor economy and once the Union disbanded, it pretty crashed. Cuba's economy is definitely better and it's also a smaller place meaning less people, meaning less money spent on people. I'm sure Cuba will do fine as long as their tourism industry stays strong because that's what they mainly rely on.

And I agree that Raul won't last long, so who will he name as successor?
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February 22nd, 2008 at 01:11am
Franny.:

It's true the sanctions are still in effect, but as someone has said earlier, Raul has already been running the country for some time now, and it's known that he's going towards the direction of capitalistic values and better the relations with America.
Honestly, I don't think the United States cares what they're going for. Think We have bigger things to worry about than trading with Cuba, and I think the majority of the political focus will stay on those bigger issues.
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February 22nd, 2008 at 02:53am
Kurtni:
Franny.:

It's true the sanctions are still in effect, but as someone has said earlier, Raul has already been running the country for some time now, and it's known that he's going towards the direction of capitalistic values and better the relations with America.
Honestly, I don't think the United States cares what they're going for. Think We have bigger things to worry about than trading with Cuba, and I think the majority of the political focus will stay on those bigger issues.

The whole 'red scare' thing and 'Cold War' thing is over, but it's something the U.S. feels they should follow through. I think it's on the back of their minds. End communism, it's why the States want to trade with China, make them less communist. It may seem like a stretch, but I'm sure it's a big deal. I mean, if it weren't, why has the news been updating on Castro's health? We don't hear about any other leaders' health...

But true that the current batch of candidates should not worry their little minds with relations with Cuba. It'll just be another thing they debate about, which is never interesting
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February 22nd, 2008 at 02:55am
Franny.:
Kurtni:
Franny.:

It's true the sanctions are still in effect, but as someone has said earlier, Raul has already been running the country for some time now, and it's known that he's going towards the direction of capitalistic values and better the relations with America.
Honestly, I don't think the United States cares what they're going for. Think We have bigger things to worry about than trading with Cuba, and I think the majority of the political focus will stay on those bigger issues.

The whole 'red scare' thing and 'Cold War' thing is over, but it's something the U.S. feels they should follow through. I think it's on the back of their minds. End communism, it's why the States want to trade with China, make them less communist. It may seem like a stretch, but I'm sure it's a big deal. I mean, if it weren't, why has the news been updating on Castro's health? We don't hear about any other leaders' health...

But true that the current batch of candidates should not worry their little minds with relations with Cuba. It'll just be another thing they debate about, which is never interesting
What the news chooses to update us on and what government policies actually reflect are very different though. I think people are just overestimating what this will do for Cuban and US relationships.
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February 22nd, 2008 at 04:34pm
Bloodraine:
I don't think that there will be any noticeable change in the forseeable future.
Raúl has already been running the country for 2 years. However, considering his age, I don't think he will be in power for very long. No doubt Castro will be remembered as a thorn in the side of the American government. Which is a good or a bad thing, depending on personal perspective.
Yes, Fidel will be remembered as that, but before he was dictator of Cuba, Fidel was hired by the CIA. I don't know much about that topic, but I just know.

Good thing my mum's going next week and see what everything's like till it changes. And she might bring me a Cuban flag and some Ché t-shirtsCoolio
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February 23rd, 2008 at 09:08am
OK. OMG. I just came back from a very long and tiring tri[p from Vietnam, went trekking and camping and was isolated from everything for several days and I come back to discover that the world has gone topsy turvy! This is stunning news. When I first heard about it, literally, it took my breath away. I don't know what to think, it's the end of an era. Amazing. I have witnessed history.

It took me several minutes to realise that Castro, being the inmensly intellegent person he is, would rather go out with a bang than fade into history would obviously take this plan of action seeing as he has appeared rather weak recently and wouldn't want that to ruin his image and so his iconicism. So it was perhaps a bit obvious, but shocking nonetheless.

I don't think that this is necessarily a step closer to democracy, but I do think it is a step closer to further capitalistic values in the Cuban economy, and as previously said by many, more McDonalds and Starbucks, etc.
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February 23rd, 2008 at 02:55pm
I really don't think it will change much, I mean his brother has been running the country for a while cuz Fidel was too sick. It's not like they just got a completly new person.
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February 24th, 2008 at 06:00am
That's only because Fidel Castro still has a lot of power. Raul and Fidel, though shared similar if not, the same political views as young adults, their ideas of revolution were quite different, and though we are no longer talking about revolution, their differences then only highlight their differences now in the face of mass consumerism, capitalism, the growing influence of the West, etc.
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February 24th, 2008 at 06:23pm
Oficially, Raul Castro won the elections and said he'll keep the same socialist government model as his elder brother. In other words, changes the ant but the cake is the same.
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February 24th, 2008 at 10:27pm
When I first heard the news, I'd hoped for a completely new person to step up and run their government, but I don't expect much change from Castro's brother. If he plans to keep the same government and regulations as his brother, the only thing that's changed is the face, as Chile Guy very aptly stated.

Who do you guys think would take the place of Castro's brother, assuming the brother steps down in the near future? I know fuckall about Cuban government, and I haven't heard of any other significant Cuban politicans.
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