Breaking News:Fidel Castro Resigns Cuban Presidency After Half-Century in Power

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Although his resignation was anticipated due to his declining health I don’t think it was expected this early….flagranny2

HAVANA —  An ailing Fidel Castro resigned as Cuba’s president Tuesday after nearly a half-century in power, saying he 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 for decades. There had been wide speculation about whether he would continue in that role.

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.

Monarchs excepted, Castro was the world’s longest ruling head of state.

Raul Castro had long been his brother’s designated successor. The longtime defense minister had been in his brother’s rebel movements since 1953 and spent decades as No. 2 in Cuba’s power structure.

The United States, bent on ensuring neither brother is in power, built a detailed plan in 2005 for American assistance ………[continued]