Cuban President Fidel Castro,who rode to power on a tidal wave of revolution in 1959 and taunted the U.S for decades, announced Sunday that he will not seek another term as the President and leader of the small Communist nation, that rests just hours from the shores of Florida.
Castro, 81 has remained out of the Cuban public eye since the summer of 2006, when he ceded power and the authority of his role as leader of the Cuban nation to his younger brother the Cuban Defense Minister Raul Castro.
The elder Castro however has remained influential and was still perceived as the real power in the country behind the scenes, issuing written statements as well as video documentation to prove that the communist leader was still alive.
The Cuban National Assembly is said to soon convene and is said to be likely to select the younger Castro as the countries new leader.
President Bush, as well as Republican Presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) and Democratic candidates Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama(D-Ill)greeted the news as a positive development and a glimmer of light the Cuba might be able to move ahead with economic and democratic reforms.
Fidel Castro has long been a headache for the United States. Despite his waning influence and power as a threat to the U.S following the demise of the Soviet Union, Castro has remained a thorn in the side of the United States.
In the late 1950s he ascended to power, after a lengthy jungle based guerrilla war against the U.S backed regime of then Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista.
In the early 1960s, the U.S implemented economic sanctions against Cuba. Tension continued to build, when in 1961 upon entering office, the U.S attempted the disastrous Bay of Pigs Operation,an attempt that failed to remove Castro and his allies from power using Cuban ex patriots. The following year Castro played a part in the point of gravest danger and highest tension, in the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Castro permitted the Soviets to station nuclear missiles in Cuba, leading to a U.S blockade of the island and nearly culminating in nuclear war between the U.S and the Soviet Union.
The U.S attempted numerous times throughout Castro’s rule to assassinate him, but to no avail. The failures were notorious with such classic tales as poison tipped umbrellas, and exploding cigars throughout the decades. Castro himself has even been suspected by some,(including reportedly President Johnson himself) of playing a part in then 1963 Assassination of President John F Kennedy.
Throughout the 1960s Castro proceeded to taunt and harass the U.S, becoming a major player in South America. Once he even briefly shut off access to water for the U.S facilities at Guantanamo Bay.
In the 1980s despite an increasingly reforming Soviet Union and the dissolution of the communist giant and other regimes throughout the Eastern European landscape, Cuba remained steeped in communism and shut off from access to both U.S markets and goods.
In 1999 Castro yet again made headlines in a foreign policy custody battle of sorts with his old archenemies the United States, when Elian Gonzales, a young expat whose mother died when fleeing to America with him was taken in by relatives in Florida.
Also in recent years the increasingly graying Castro remained just as belacous as ever, as he established a report with socialist and anti-American Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who have repeatedly decried “U.S imperialism”.
Now with Castro exiting the stage, it is said that his younger heir might be more flexible and willing to sit down with his brother’s longtime rival the United states, to lay out a pathway to modernization of the countries heavily outdated economy and expand political freedoms, after decades of political tyranny and egregious human rights abuses.
However, like Fidel, Raul who fought alongside his brother and other such Marxist revolutionaries as Ernesto “Che” Guvera, is an adherent to Marxism. And throughout any rule by either Raul Castro or any other potential leader that could succeed Fidel after nearly half a century in power, will be heavily influenced and perhaps even controlled by Fidel himself.
He is one of the longest serving heads of state in modern times who has: suppressed dissidents and political rivals, railed against the U.S, outlived nearly ten U.S Administrations from Eisenhower to George. W.Bush, and has remained in power despite the end of the cold War. It would be a grave error to think that he would abandon politics and power altogether, just because he is no longer in the public eye as leader of Cuba.