Fidel Castro steps down from power

February 19th, 2008 - 5:16 pm ICT by admin  

(Third Lead)
Havana, Feb 19 (DPA) Cuban leader Fidel Castro Tuesday renounced his presidency and military leadership of Cuba, after more than a year of illness and absence from the job. “I will neither aspire to nor accept, I repeat, I will neither aspire to, nor accept, the positions of president of the state council and commander in chief,” Castro said in a message to the Cuban people published in the Communist Party daily Granma.

The posts, which Castro himself has held for decades, are set to be filled when the new Cuban National Assembly holds its first meeting Sunday.

“It would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer. This I say devoid of all drama,” Castro added in no uncertain terms.

Castro, 81, has led Cuba in various posts since leading the revolution that brought down the government of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. However, he had “temporarily” given up power to his younger brother Raul July 31, 2006 to recover from surgery for an unspecified intestinal problem.

He had not returned to the Cuban leadership or been seen in public since then, although he has received distinguished visitors and been busy for months expressing his opinion on various matters on a regular basis, in articles published under his name in Cuban media.

“My first duty was to prepare our people both politically and psychologically for my absence after so many years of struggle. I kept saying that my recovery ‘was not without risks’,” Castro said in his message.

He noted that he had been anticipating his decision to stand down from the leadership for months, with comments published in the media where he had stressed among other things that he did not wish “to cling to positions”.

In an election Jan 20, however, he had been elected to sit in the country’s 614-member national assembly, so he remained in a position to retain the leadership of the communist country.

On Sunday, in its first session, the national assembly is to choose from among its ranks the 31 members of the council of state, whose president will be both the head of state and the head of government.

Castro noted that he would keep writing despite stepping down from power.

“This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas,” Castro said.

He stressed that he is not worried about the country’s future, since there are people who have “the authority and the experience to guarantee the replacement” of the revolutionary leader.

“The adversary to be defeated is extremely strong; however, we have been able to keep it at bay for half a century,” Castro noted.

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