Era Coming to an End in Cuba
Fidel Castro is quitting as president of Cuba, but in his announcement he writes, "This is not my farewell to you."
Castro seized power in an armed revolution 49 years ago. Now, he is 81 years old. He has been out of the public view for a year and a half because of illness, and he said in a letter that he released over night that he is stepping down.
By 7 a.m. Tuesday, few Cubans had heard the news, which was published in the online version of the Communist Party newspaper Granma. The news is expected to spread quickly as people head to work.
After 18 months of being sidelined due to illness, Cubans have been getting used to the idea that the man who has ruled the country for almost 50 years was about to retire and an era would come to an end.
This was the logical time for Castro to step down. Last month, there were elections for a new National Assembly, and the new assembly meets for the first time on Sunday. Its first order of business is to elect a Council of State and a president. The president of the Council of State is the president of Cuba for the next five years.
President or not, Castro will still be a powerful force in Cuba as long as he lives. Raul Castro has had power since his brother's illness, and during that time he has been talking about economic reforms. Raul Castro has raised expectations in Cuba that he is going to put more money in people's pockets and more food on the table.
He has said publicly that he would like to engage in talks with the U.S., but he has said he will not do that with the Bush administration. He wants to see who is elected president in November.
The BBC's Cuba correspondent, Michael Voss, talks about Castro's announcement.
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