Fidel Castro’s announcement yesterday to resign from his posts of President and Commander in Chief is causing the world to ripple with questions – will this mean change for Cuba and other countries’ economic relations with them? The 81 year-old leader, who has held power in Cuba for almost 50 years, has had increasingly failing health in the past year and a half. As a result, some experts and even the Cuban citizens themselves have said this announcement was expected, and either won’t cause much change or it will be slow to take effect. His brother Raul has been the acting President and the shoo-in candidate to formally accept the position on Sunday.
Raul’s talks of reform and the road to democracy make change sound imminent to Cubans, who desire changes in cumbersome visa requirements and fundamental rights of expression and association. Next-door neighbour America has rejected lifting the trade embargo however, emphasizing their “wait and see” stance for now of whether change will happen and how long it may take. Spanish leaders have voiced optimism, with both presidential candidates Rajoy and Zapatero welcoming the manoeuvre as a potential open door to democracy. We all may have to wait and see, since even Fidel promised in his resignation letter:
This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas. I shall continue to write under the heading of ‘Reflections by comrade Fidel.’ It will be just another weapon you can count on. Perhaps my voice will be heard. I shall be careful.Granma, Feb. 18, 2008