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Castro Steps Down After 50 Years in Power

Fidel Castro resigned as Cuba’s president Tuesday after nearly 50 years in power, saying that he would not accept a new term when the newly elected parliament meets on Sunday, reported MSNBC.

In a letter published online in the Communist Party daily Granma Castro said, “I will not aspire nor accept — I repeat I will not aspire or accept — the post of President of the Council of State and Commander in Chief." Castro's overnight announcement ends his rule over Cuba, positioning his brother Raul Castro, 76, for succession to the presidency. Raul is currently No. 2 in Cuba’s power structure as defense minister, and had been a part of his brother’s rebel movements since 1953.

President Bush, speaking from Rwanda, expressed hope that Cuba will now look towards democracy. “The international community should work with the Cuban people to begin to build institutions that are necessary for democracy,? Bush said according to MSNBC.

"Castro was the world’s longest ruling head of state," reports MSNBC. Castro has been praised by his supporters for providing health care and education to his citizens while remaining seperate from the United States, but his critics claim he runs Cuba like a dictator and denys individual freedoms and civil liberties such as speech, movement and assembly.

"But the United States, bent on blocking Fidel Castro’s plans for his younger brother to succeed him, built a detailed plan in 2005 for American assistance to ensure a democratic transition on the island of 11.2 million people after his death," reported MSNBC.

Castro and other Cuban officials say that there will be no transition to democracy, and the socialist island will remain that way long after he is gone.