Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Fidel Castro, Cuba's autocratic ruling president, resigned today. This ends over a half of a century of rule by him, the longest rule by a head of government in the world. His control of Cuba began in 1959, reshaping the island nation into a communist state, and made Fidel Castro a communist icon and a relentless opponent of U.S. policy. Fidel's 76-year-old brother, Raul Castro, will take the reins of the government, freeing him to implement reforms he has suggested at since taking over as the acting president of Cuba when illness engulfed Fidel Castro in July of 2006.
The Bush Administration has made public its hopes that Fidel's resignation may bring about a democratic transition. Raul Castro, though not as hardline as Fidel, is hardly one to suddenly welcome democracy, so doubts regarding such a transition remain high.
Cubans did not receive the news of Castro's resignation on the official state radio until hours after the news became available on the internet. Reports state that Cubans have received this news with a mix of sadness and hope. Cuban exiles in America are accepting the news as a possible first step toward change, but understand that the change of the person does not necessarily signify a change of the system.
The United States Government, in light of this news, does not plan to change U.S. policy toward Cuba, or lift its embargo on Cuba. In 2005 a detailed plan was created for American assistance to ensure a democratic transition on Cuba after Castro's death, but Cuban officials have continually insisted that the socialist political and economic systems in Cuba will outlive Fidel Castro.
Cuba has remained communist under his ironclad rule even after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism across Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, Fidel Castro, during his rule, has been nothing more than a dictator whose totalitarian government has systematically denied individual freedoms and civil liberties.