Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I heard Dunkin' Donuts already bought parcels of land in Cuba in prep for this...

Fidel Castro resigns as Cuba's president

From Yahoo.com By ANITA SNOW, Associated Press Writer 39 minutes ago

HAVANA - Fidel Castro, ailing and 81, announced Tuesday he was resigning as Cuba's president, ending a half-century of autocratic rule which made him a communist icon and a relentless opponent of U.S. policy around the globe.


In the pre-dawn hours, most Cubans were unaware of Castro's message, and Havana's streets were quiet. It wasn't until 5 a.m., several hours after it was posted on the internet, that official radio began reading the news to early risers.

As the news across the island, Cubans went about their business as usual, accepting the inevitable with a mix of sadness and hope.

"It is like losing a father," said Luis Conte, an elderly museum watchman. Or "like a marriage — a very long one that is over."

Cuban dissidents welcomed the news as a possible first step toward change.

...In Washington, the government said it had no plans to change U.S. policy or lift its embargo on Cuba.

Bush, traveling in Rwanda, pledged to "help the people of Cuba realize the blessings of liberty." But he implied that wasn't likely under Raul Castro.

"The international community should work with the Cuban people to begin to build institutions that are necessary for democracy," he said. "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 that the Castro brothers try to foist off as true democracy."

If Cuba remains much the same, "political prisoners will rot in prison and the human condition will remain pathetic in many cases," Bush said.

The United States built a detailed plan in 2005 for American assistance to ensure a democratic transition on the island of 11.2 million people after Castro's death. But Cuban officials have insisted that the island's socialist political and economic systems will outlive Castro.

"The adversary to be defeated is extremely strong," Castro wrote Tuesday. "However, we have been able to keep it at bay for half a century."

Peter Kornbluh, senior analyst at George Washington University's National Security Archive, said the resignation will allow the next U.S. president to adopt a totally new approach toward dialogue and civil relations with a post-Fidel Cuba.

"Fidel Castro's resignation does present a true opportunity to revisit a U.S. policy of perpetual antagonism towards Cuba, even though the current U.S. president is unlikely to make any changes in a hostile position towards Cuba," he said.

Castro has been Cuba's unchallenged leader since 1959. Monarchs excepted, he was the world's longest ruling head of state...

Castro's departure is a letdown in Miami

From Yahoo.com By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 37 minutes ago

MIAMI - It was the cherished dream Cuban exiles carried in their hearts for decades: Fidel Castro would die in power, freedom would return to their homeland, and there would be dancing in the streets of Miami.

But when the dictator's departure from office finally came to pass Tuesday, it wasn't the way the exiles imagined it at all. Reality was far less exciting.

In Miami's Little Havana and the heavily Cuban suburb of Hialeah, there was little celebration — and little hope that democracy is at hand in Cuba — after the ailing, 81-year-old president resigned as part of a measured withdrawal from power that began a year and a half ago.

"People are saying that all of this is a sham," 25-year-old Osiel Diegues said at the Hialeah barbershop where he works. "As long as Fidel is alive, and as long as communism remains, nothing will change."

...Most exiles view Castro as a ruthless dictator who forced them from their homes after he seized power in 1959. But newer arrivals and second-generation Cuban-Americans are less likely to agree the U.S. embargo against Cuba has been an effective tool.

And many with family still on the island chafe under Bush administration policies that limit the amount of money they can send home and restrict their visits to once every three years.

... Republican Sen. Mel Martinez, who left Cuba as a boy, hopes eventually to see the release of political prisoners and the restoration of human rights, and said perhaps the news will give strength to the dissident movement. But he cautioned: "The fact is the oppression in Cuba today is the worst its been in years."

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