For the first time in nearly half a century, Fidel Castro has stepped down as president of Cuba. The announcement caps a year and a half of limbo and speculation since Mr. Castro fell ill and temporarily ceded power to his younger brother, Raúl Castro.
"I will not aspire to nor accept – I repeat, I will not aspire to nor accept – the post of President of the Council of State and Commander in Chief," read a letter that appeared early Tuesday morning in the Community Party daily Granma.
It is a pivotal moment in the island nation's history. Castro rose to power on New Year's Day in 1959, and quickly became a nemesis of the United States as he turned Cuba into a communist country. Throughout the cold war – and since – US presidents have attempted to topple him with no success. Many Cubans have no memory of anyone other than Castro as the head of state. Even when he handed temporary power to his brother in July 2006, there was an expectation that he would return.