Castro Steps Down

by hilzoy

From the NYT:

"Fidel Castro stepped down Tuesday morning as the president of Cuba after a long illness, according to Granma, the official publication of the Cuban Communist Party. His resignation ends one of the longest tenures as one of the most all-powerful communist heads of state in the world.

In late July 2006, Mr. Castro, who is 81, handed over power temporarily to his brother, Raúl Castro, 76, and a few younger cabinet ministers, after an acute infection in his colon forced him to undergo emergency surgery. Despite numerous surgical procedures since then, he has never fully recovered, but he has remained active in running government affairs from behind the scenes.

Now, just days before the national assembly is to meet to select a new head of state, Fidel Castro resigned permanently in a letter to the nation, and signaled his willingness to let a younger generation assume power. He said his failing health made it impossible to return as president.

“I will not aspire to, neither will I accept I repeat I will not aspire to, neither will I accept the position of President of the Council of State and Commander in chief,” he wrote.

He added: “It would betray my conscience to occupy a responsibility that requires mobility and the total commitment that I am not in the physical condition to offer.”"

It is unclear how much will change immediately:

"Mr. Castro also indicated that he is not fading into the sunset, but would continue to be a force in Cuban politics through his writings, just as he has over the last year and a half. “I am not saying goodbye to you,” he wrote. “I only wish to fight as a soldier of ideas.”

That statement raised the possibility that little would change after Sunday’s vote, that Cuba would continue to be ruled in essence by two presidents, with Raúl Castro on stage while Fidel Castro lurks in the wings. At times over the last year and a half, the current government has seemed paralyzed when the two men disagreed. For his part, Mr. Castro has sent several signals in recent months that it was time for a younger generation to take the helm. He said in December, for example, “My primary duty is not to weld myself to offices, much less obstruct the path of younger people.”"

But change has begun.