Sunday, February 24, 2008

New Cuba Leader

Sources: CNN, AFP, Financial Times

Raul Castro, 76, has been approved by the Cuban National Assembly to become its next president. He succeeds his older brother Fidel Castro, who has ruled Cuba with an iron fist for nearly fifty years. During the elder Castro’s rule, Raul was the head of the army. He also assisted in planning the revolution that saw the overthrow of the government in the 1950s.

Raul Castro has served as acting president since Fidel Castro handed power to him in 2006. The Fidel Castro era officially ended on Tuesday, after he announced that he would resign as the Cuban leader. Fidel Castro called it “a betrayal to [his] conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than [he is] physically able to offer.”

Fidel Castro’s resignation was greeted with skepticism in the US. American leaders have pointed that this could be a catalyst for a change to democracy. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice stated: “We urge the Cuban government to begin a process of peaceful, democratic change by releasing all political prisoners, respecting human rights, and creating a clear pathway towards free and fair elections.” Nevertheless, skeptics remain. Alina Fernandez, the elder Castro’s Florida-based daughter, says “I think that the government will remain mostly the same, but I think they are going to bring a different faces that they need.”

The new Castro regime has promised “a better form of socialism” and possibly a “more democratic society.” Fidel Castro, however, accused President George W. Bush stating that the American vision for Cuba amounts to an annexation of Cuba.

Question: Will Cuba, under Raul Castro, make some move towards democracy—and if so, how can this happen?

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