Fidel Castro, 81, this morning ended one of the longest tenures as one of the most well-known communist heads of state.
Citing ill health, Castro said in a letter to the nation posted on the Granma website:
“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."
"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.”
Hearing the news of Castro's retirement while on his trip through Africa, President Bush said, “The United States will help the people of Cuba realize the blessings of liberty,” adding that this is a new beginning and chance for a democratic transition.
As one known for his omnipresent military-garb, Castro added in the letter, "“I am not saying goodbye to you. I only wish to fight as a soldier of ideas.”
For more about the history of Castro's time in office, read more.
Castro grasped power in January 1959 after waging a hard-fought guerrilla war against the dictator Fulgencio Batista. He promised to reinstate the Cuban constitution, then hold elections.
Soon after assuming power, he shunned those democratic ideals and fostered a totalitarian brand of communism. He allied Cuba with the Soviet Union, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war in the Fall of 1962. This happened by allowing Russia to build missile launching sites fewer than 100 miles from American shores.
He's a colorful leader to be sure. What do you think will happen in Cuba now? Will they move toward democracy, or is the United States misguided in thinking that democracy is right for every country?