Fidel Castro resigned as president of Cuba on Tuesday after almost fifty years of command over the Communist regime he fought for and built, according to the nation's official party paper Granma. The frail 81-year-old leader has been out of day-to-day government -- and out of the public eye -- since July 2006, when he announced that in the aftermath of an intestinal operation he would cede provisional control to his younger brother Raúl.
Fidel said Tuesday that he won't seek re-election. "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 published over Castro's name on the online edition of Granma.
Rumors of a resignation have flourished since a new National Assembly came to office in January. The Assembly will meet on Sunday to select a new Council of State, which includes the post of president.
"My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath," reads the letter. "That's all I can offer. (But) it would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer. This I say devoid of all drama."
Since July 2006 he hasn't stepped out in public, though he's been photographed and filmed indoors with leaders like Venzuelan President Hugo Chavez. Granma has also published his ideological essays. "This is not my farewell to you," his letter reads. "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."
The resignation helps position his 76-year-old brother for permanent succession to the presidency. Some Cubans hope Raúl Castro will push through "structural changes" to improve the economy, since he admitted last year that government wages of $19 a month (€13) weren't high enough.
Fidel Castro has led Cuba since 1959, when a long guerrilla war ousted the US-friendly regime of General Fulgencio Batista. He's resisted American travel boycotts, economic sanctions and assassination attempts, and reigned longer than any head of state in the world, with the exception of monarchs.