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End of the line for Cuba's Castro? Fidel hints that it may be time to retire

End of the line for Cuba's Castro? Fidel hints that it may be time to retire
Last updated at 08:06am on 18th December 2007

Leaving office: Castro has suggested it may be time to stand down
Cuba's ailing communist leader, , has suggested he may give
up his position as leader of the country – the first time he has spoken
of retiring since falling ill.

"My elemental duty is not to hold on to positions and less to obstruct
the path of younger people," the 81-year-old Castro said in a letter
read on Cuban state television.

Castro, who took power in a 1959 revolution, handed over temporarily to
his brother in July 2006 after undergoing stomach surgery
for an undisclosed illness.

In September, he appeared on Cuban TV to scotch rumours that his death
had been covered up by officials. He has not been seen in public now for
16 months.

Cuba's National Assembly could formalize Castro's retirement as head of
state when it approves the members of the executive Council of State at
its new session in March.

Castro, the last of the major players of the Cold War era still alive,
said his duty is "to contribute experience and ideas whose modest value
comes from the exceptional times that I have lived through."

Castro last appeared on Cuban television back in September to scotch
rumours that he was already dead

His comments at the end of the letter read out on a daily current
affairs program on television suggested Castro would not resume office
but instead continue in the role of elder statesman advising the
government on key issues.

Castro holds the posts of of the Council of State and Council
of Ministers, and first secretary of the ruling Communist Party.

Seven out of 10 Cubans were born after Castro's revolution and have
known no other leader. Many are unsure what the future holds in store
after Castro.

"We are ready, but we don't know what will come. We expect good things,
nothing bad we hope," said Ana Rosa Hernandez, an usher at 's Yara
cinema.

Outside, Gilberto Calderon, son of a peasant who joined Castro's
guerrilla uprising in the Sierra Maestra hills 50 years ago, said his
revolutionary legacy will survive.

"He has left a solid foundation for us to continue," Calderon said.
"Even if someone else takes the seat of power, nothing will change."

Since March this year, Castro has remained present in Cuban political
life by writing dozens of newspaper columns denouncing his ideological
nemesis, the U.S. government, for the war in Iraq and its policies on
climate change and the use of crops as biofuels.

But he had not mentioned his future role until Monday.

Senior government officials, who no longer say that Castro is recovering
and will return to office, insist that he is consulted on major policy
decisions.

His illness last year sparked speculation about the end of one-party
Communist rule in Cuba. But most observers agree that a stable transfer
of power has occurred to Defense Minister Raul Castro as acting president.

The younger Castro, 76, who is considered to be a more practical
administrator, has encouraged debate on the country's main economic
problems and promised "structural changes" in to ensure
Cubans have enough food.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/worldnews.html?in_article_id=503153&in_page_id=1811&ito=1490

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