Ailing Castro Hints for First Time of Retirement

December 18, 2007 04:59 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Fidel Castro announces that he will not hinder the political succession of Cuba’s younger generations, but stops short of offering concrete details of his departure; to some observers, this gesture brings Cuba a step closer to political reform.

30-Second Summary

“My elemental duty is not to cling to positions, or even less to obstruct the path of younger people, but to share experiences and ideas whose modest worth comes from the exceptional era in which I lived,” Castro wrote in the final paragraph of the letter.

Although the 81-year-old leader has expressed similar sentiments about making way for younger generations in the past, such comments have taken on special import since he temporarily ceded powers to his younger brother Raul 16 months ago.

Castro has been the unchallenged leader of the island nation since 1959, and the president of Cuba’s Council of State since its creation in 1976. Despite his public withdrawal, Castro remains a candidate for re-election as a deputy to the Cuban parliament in the upcoming Jan. 20 elections.

Hoping for substantive political change, Washington recently seized on Castro’s declining power as an opportunity to call on the Cuban people to resist their military rulers.

“You have the power to shape your own destiny,” said President George W. Bush in an Oct. 23 speech in which he addressed the Cuban people.

Bush stated that the U.S. trade and travel restrictions that have been in place since the 1960s would continue, but that America would also reward economic and political reform with aid from the newly established Freedom for Cuba Fund.

Despite the tone of Castro’s speech, and Washington’s efforts, Cuba’s governmental future remains uncertain. As the International Herald Tribune points out, Castro’s letter “did not speak of any future leaders he envisioned governing Cuba.”

Headline Links: Castro’s letter to Cuba

Background: Bush’s speech, Castro’s illness, Cuban developments and U.S. aid

President Bush’s speech
Castro’s illness

On July 26, 2006, the 80-year-old leader became ill a few hours after the Revolution Day celebrations, the annual festivities marking the attack he led on an army barracks in 1959 that launched the Cuban Revolution.
Recent U.S. aid for Cuban pro-democracy movements

Reference Material: A Cuban Overview

Key Players: Fidel and Raul Castro

Fidel Castro
Raul Castro

Historical Context: The story of Cuba


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