Castro Steps Down as Cuba's President

Citing health reasons, Fidel Castro has resigned as President of Cuba. An election is expected within days.

His letter was published overnight in a Cuban newspaper.

"I will not aspire to, nor will I accept the position of president of the council of state and commander in chief," Castro wrote. "I wish only to fight as a soldier of ideas. ... Perhaps my voice will be heard."

....My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath," he said. "That's all I can offer."


While the exile community in Florida and others around the world will herald Castro's departure, he was not without his admirers:

Castro clung to a socialist economic model and one-party Communist rule, even after the Soviet Union disintegrated and most of the rest of the world concluded that state socialism was a bankrupt idea whose time had come and gone.

....his defenders in Cuba point to what they see as social progress made under Castro's revolution, including racial integration and universal education and health care. Instead of communism, they blame the U.S. embargo for the country's economic woes.

What's next for Cuba?

Update: Steve Clemons of the Washington Note wants to know Hillary and Obama's position on lifting the embargo.

Opening family travel -- and frankly all travel -- between Cuba and the US, and ending the economic embargo will provide new encounters, new impressions, and the kind of people-to-people diplomacy that George W. Bush, John Bolton, Richard Cheney, and Jesse Helms run scared from.

This is a huge potential pivot point in US-Cuba relations. Will Hillary Clinton step up to the plate -- and will Obama move beyond the somewhat timid proposals he offered previously and go to the gold standard in US-Cuba relations articulated by Senator Chris Dodd?

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  • Display: Sort:
    Probably (none / 0) (#1)
    by Randinho on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 09:04:53 AM EST
    More of the same for a while followed by a Chinaesque version of capitalism.

    you have a point there (none / 0) (#2)
    by scribe on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 09:15:13 AM EST
    One of the stranger things I've experienced, was traveling in Canada and seeing billboards advertising vacations in Cuba.

    Actually, I think they're likely to wind up somewhere between a European semi-socialist state and the Chinese model.  They've managed to survive since the demise of the Soviet Union on Euro tourism.  And, from what I've heard/read, it's actually pretty nice for the tourists - not commercialized, relatively (compared with places the US patrons can go) unexploited.  

    All this assumes, of course, that the US doesn't stage-manage a coup, followed by a puppet government to disperse nationalized property to prior ownership and return Cuba to its semi-colonial pre-1959 status.


    Private (none / 0) (#7)
    by Wile ECoyote on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 01:09:40 PM EST
    property is bad!  Current Cuba is good for tourists, and prostitutes!  Too bad is any citizens want to decide what to do with their own lives!  That is not the Common Good!

    You should worry more (none / 0) (#10)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 01:18:31 PM EST
    about Chavez and his minions from Venezula.

    And the sanctity (none / 0) (#11)
    by jondee on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 01:21:37 PM EST
    of our precious bodily fluids.

    What a dumb comment. (none / 0) (#21)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 05:36:20 PM EST
    Are you okay?

    It's a line from a famous movie (none / 0) (#25)
    by jondee on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 12:04:18 PM EST
    that would be so far over your head, you'd wind up with mental whiplash.

    And yes, Im okay. And so are you.


    So...? (none / 0) (#3)
    by larryharriet on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 09:54:31 AM EST
    I really think the media is making too big a thing of this.

    His Brother Is Taking Over. (none / 0) (#4)
    by KevinMc on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 10:44:17 AM EST
    With his brother taking over Fidel's position, I don't see any big changes coming yet.  I'm not familiar with his brother so I could be wrong.  I guess it's a wait and see type of thing.  There are still many political prisoners in Cuba prisons.  I called a friend in Miami and he said everything is quiet there; so that tells me this is more of a symbolic handing over of power rather than any real change.  It is a turning point that I think in time will lead to change.

    from one (none / 0) (#5)
    by elim on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 11:07:00 AM EST
    dictator to another.  I don't think we'll be seeing any celebrations in the gay community any time soon on the island.  looks like a transition from one white guy to another, normally something not cheered by the left.

    So Are You Are In Favor (none / 0) (#6)
    by squeaky on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 11:14:36 AM EST
    Of the embargo?

    I was in favor (none / 0) (#9)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 01:17:40 PM EST
    of invasion.

    Democratically (none / 0) (#13)
    by jondee on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 01:40:27 PM EST
    forcing other countries to fall in line at gun point.

    Organized societies all have rules; you obviously want to force yours on other people -- through any means -- the same way that Castro supposedly did.


    In this insuring the regime in Cuba was (none / 0) (#22)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 05:39:30 PM EST
    friendly to us, which Castro was not.

    Kennedy's inept handling of that almost got us into a nuclear war and cost us important military basis in Turkey.

    Then to prove to the Soviets he was tough, he got us head over heels into South Vietnam.

    Of course JFK was also the candidate of generational change....


    "Friendly" (none / 0) (#24)
    by jondee on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 12:02:17 PM EST
    being a euphemism for abnegation of sovereign right to self determination. In a democratic kinda way.

    The "we should invade" wingnuts of the day are the ones who almost got us into a nuclear war.

    I thought you were in favor of us being head over heels in Vietnam, no? Afterall, once you set out to be "tough on communism", you have to be -- as the wedge issue of the day went -- tough on communism everywhere. Right?


    Ya gotta love it (none / 0) (#26)
    by jondee on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 12:16:02 PM EST
    Even forty+ years ago, it was all a Democrats fault.

    Only a true Independent could have that kind of consistency.


    Much better (none / 0) (#8)
    by Wile ECoyote on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 01:10:51 PM EST
    if power had been transferred to a brown, black or yellow communist guy, eh?

    Seventy percent (none / 0) (#14)
    by jondee on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 01:51:34 PM EST
    of the people in the U.S cant find the M.E on the map and they're worried (supposedly), about whether Cubans are "free" or not.

    Love him or hate him..... (none / 0) (#12)
    by kdog on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 01:35:18 PM EST
    ya gotta hand it to Fidel.  50 years with the greatest power on earth breathing down his neck, trying to kill him, and he leaves on his own terms.  That's impressive.

    That being said, good riddance to a tyrant.  As a wise man once said.....

    "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

    - Pete Townsend

    Raul (none / 0) (#15)
    by Deconstructionist on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 02:25:57 PM EST
      will likely allow (promote) economic reform by loosening restrictions on private small enterprises and allowing (seeking) foreign investment untethered from state partnerships/JVs.

      In terms of civil liberties in the non-economic sphere I'd expect little progress in the short term, and Raul was once considered the more brutal of the brothers and we may even see a crackdown on political dissent out of insecurity.

     At best, Raul will be a transitional figure and the real question is how will be removed from office. Death by natural causes? Disability? Peaceful politcal movement? Civil war? Sponsored coup?

      Long term, 20 years from now Cuba might be the most prosperous nation in the Caribbean with a free wheeling market economy  and will likely be the political, cultural and social leader in the region if it adopts more democratic institutions.

    Raul Castro presently is (none / 0) (#16)
    by oculus on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 02:28:55 PM EST
    actively soliciting foreign investment in conjunction with the Cuban Army.  I have also read he was quite brutal in the aftermath of the revolution.  Not expecting him to change that now.

    Yes, but I'm speculating (none / 0) (#17)
    by Deconstructionist on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 02:37:25 PM EST
     that we may now see the state allow foreign companies to establish,  own and operate enterprises in Cuba  (and  a less constricted  flow of capital using foreign financial institutions authorized to do business in Cuba)without being required to "partner" with government ministries.

      I too fear a crackdown on political opponents (but not with the brutal tactics of the old days) but if he is shrewd he would refrain and even make some token concessions in the areas of freedom of the press, speech, religion to put pressure on the U.S. to ease the embargo.

    Huff Post has an op ed up about (none / 0) (#18)
    by oculus on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 03:28:27 PM EST
    the persuasive powers of Fidel Castro and that he could have moved people in an country.  Any tie in w/Obama's abilities?  No, I'm not suggesting Obama would become a dictator.  But, the Cuban people bought the rhetoric but got something completely different from what was promised.

    Communismo murio sobre (none / 0) (#19)
    by talkingpoint on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 04:12:59 PM EST
     hace diez anos, desde cuando la destrucion de las ideas de Rusa. ahora viva la gente de cuba. libertad de todo.

    Está seguro? (none / 0) (#20)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 04:44:32 PM EST
    Castro did not resign (none / 0) (#23)
    by dutchfox on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 07:58:07 AM EST
    He just said he wasn't seeking re-election as President. Quite different. That's like saying LBJ resigned, when in fact he had said he would not seek re-election. Even the rabid anti-Castro Miami Herald got it correctly:
    Castro announced in a letter to the Cuban people Tuesday that his health will not allow him to accept another term as president of the ruling Council of State. His move came five days before the National Assembly meets to elect the new Council of State and its president -- Castro's top official title since the council was established in 1976.