By Anthony Boadle
Tue Feb 19, 2008 8:20am ES
HAVANA (Reuters) – Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro said on Tuesday that he will not return to lead the communist country, retiring as president 49 years after he seized power in a revolution and became a central figure of the Cold War.
Fidel Castro announces retirement
Tuesday, 19 February 2008, 12:58 GMT
Cuba’s ailing leader Fidel Castro has said he will not accept another term as president, ending 49 years in power.
“I neither will aspire to, nor will I accept, the position of president of the council of state and commander in chief,” he told the newspaper, Granma.
The 81-year-old handed over power temporarily to his brother, Raul, in July 2006 when he underwent surgery.
US President George W Bush said the news should mark the beginning of a transition towards democracy for Cuba.
by Fidel Castro Ruz
February 19, 2008
Excerpts from Castro’s Resignation Letter
Cuban leader Fidel Castro said on Tuesday that he will not return to lead the country as president. Following are extracts from his message to Cubans, which was published on the Web site of the ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma in both Spanish and English.
Message from the Commander in Chief
Last Friday, February 15, I promised you that in my next reflection I would deal with an issue of interest to many compatriots. Thus, this now is rather a message.
The moment has come to nominate and elect the State Council, its President, its Vice-Presidents and Secretary.
For many years I have occupied the honorable position of President. On February 15, 1976 the Socialist Constitution was approved with the free, direct and secret vote of over 95% of the people with the right to cast a vote.
The first National Assembly was established on December 2nd that same year; this elected the State Council and its presidency. Before that, I had been a Prime Minister for almost 18 years. I always had the necessary prerogatives to carry forward the revolutionary work with the support of the overwhelming majority of the people.
There were those overseas who, aware of my critical health condition, thought that my provisional resignation, on July 31, 2006, to the position of President of the State Council, which I left to First Vice-President Raul Castro Ruz, was final.
But Raul, who is also minister of the Armed Forces on account of his own personal merits, and the other comrades of the Party and State leadership were unwilling to consider me out of public life despite my unstable health condition.
It was an uncomfortable situation for me vis–vis an adversary which had done everything possible to get rid of me, and I felt reluctant to comply.
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