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Castro steps down

“I will not aspire nor accept – I repeat I will not aspire or accept – the post of President of the Council of State and Commander in Chief.”

— Fidel Castro’s letter, published this AM in the online edition of the Communist Party daily Granma.

The 81-year-old leader of the island nation quietly resigned, ending nearly 50 years of rule. More after the jump.I am sure there will be partying in the streets of Miami. (MSNBC):

NBC News’ Mary Murray, reporting from Havana, said that although Castro had announced his retirement as president and commander in chief of the military, for the time being he remains head of Cuba’s ruling Communist Party.

Over the decades, the fiery guerrilla leader reshaped Cuba into a communist state 90 miles from U.S. shores and survived assassination attempts, a CIA-backed invasion and a missile crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. Since his rise to power on New Year’s Day 1959, Castro resisted attempts by 10 U.S. administrations to topple him, including the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

The United States’ discovery of nuclear-armed missiles on the island led to a showdown of the world’s then-superpowers before the Soviet Union agreed to remove them.

Monarchs excepted, Castro was the world’s longest ruling head of state.

His ironclad rule ensured Cuba remained among the world’s last few remaining communist countries, long after the breakup of the Soviet Union and collapse of communism across Eastern Europe.

Castro’s #2, his elderly brother Raul (77) takes the reins; he has in effect run the country since July 2006 when Fidel underwent surgery. The bigger question is how will the U.S. policy change toward Cuba, if at all. Here is a telling sign about the desires to give “assistance” emanating from the Bush White House:

But the United States, bent on blocking Fidel Castro’s plans for his younger brother to succeed him, built a detailed plan in 2005 for American assistance to ensure a democratic transition on the island of 11.2 million people after his death.

…Castro and other Cuban officials long insisted “there will be no transition” and that the island’s socialist political and economic systems will live on long after he is gone.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding