Fidel Castro Resigns as Cuba's President

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The world's longest reigning ruler is calling it quits. Fidel Castro resigned this morning as Cuba's president after nearly half a century in power.

The Communist dictator who came to power in a revolution back in 1959 resigned in a most modern fashion -- announcing it via the Internet.

The 81-year-old Castro's resignation letter was published early in the morning in the online edition of Cuba's Communist Party daily. Rapid reforms aren't likely to follow, though.

When Castro became seriously ill in 2006, he put his 76-year-old brother Raul firmly in charge, and Raul is likely to remain as Cuban president for the foreseeable future.

Click the play button for more with CBN News Reporter Erick Stakelbeck.

Raul has indicated he'd like to slowly liberalize the economy, but still retain a tight grip on political power.

But that doesn't mean Cubans can't hope for freedom, which is exactly what President Bush was wishing for them during a visit to Rwanda today.

"Eventually this transition ought to lead to free and fair elections and I mean free and I mean fair, not these kind of staged elections the Castro brothers try to foist off as being true democracy," Bush said.

As for Cuban-U.S. relations, in his resignation letter, Castro wrote of America -- which he calls "the adversary" -- that Cuba had been able to keep it at "bay" for half a century.

That might have been his idea of a pun, since America's main effort to oust Castro came at the Bay of Pigs where the U.S. backed a failed invasion by Cuban exiles and dissidents in 1961.

In return, the fiery Fidel caused the U.S. no end of trouble over the years.

In 1962, Castro allowed the Soviets to place nuclear missiles on his island, just 90 miles from Florida, which led to a tense standoff between the U.S. and Soviet Union - possibly the closest the world ever came to nuclear war.

Castro backed revolution after revolution from Latin America to Africa during the 1960s,'70s, and '80s.

Meanwhile at home, Cuba's economy crumpled and its people suffered, many of them in prison as Castro's regime ruthlessly crushed any dissent.

But now many Cubans are hoping a new day may be on the horizon. And Bush says the world should help.

Bush said, "The international community should work with the Cuban people to begin to build institutions that are necessary for democracy."

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CBN News
Paul Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Sr. Washington Correspondent

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