Newswise — Cuban leader Fidel Castro stated in an announcement posted on the Web site of the state-run newspaper Granma that he will retire from his 49-year reign as head of state. Central Michigan University professor of political science Orlando PÃ©rez says that Castro's "resignation" from the offices of president of the Council of State and commander-in-chief marks a clear transition on the island for the first time in 49 years, but it is too early to say if the change will go beyond personalities and reflect a transformation in the political system. PÃ©rez is available for commentary on the issue.
A few more of PÃ©rez's initial thoughts on the subject:
"In an interesting twist, Fidel Castro said nothing in his resignation letter about relinquishing his positions within the party, which is where real power lies in the Cuban system. Additionally, Fidel said in his letter that he will continue to write op-ed pieces, hoping that they can have some influence. Therefore, one has to question the extent to which Fidel is completely relinquishing his authority. Nevertheless, this move constitutes another step in a yearlong transition of power in Cuba."
"Current U.S.-Cuba relations will not change in the immediate future as President Bush has stated that as long as Raul Castro is in charge the U.S. will not relax the embargo or open relations with the island. Perhaps a new U.S. president will be in a position to take advantage of the transition in Cuba to begin changing U.S.-Cuba relations toward a more productive footing."
"On the Cuban side, the shift from less orthodox revolutionary leaders toward a younger generation who are less tied to the policies of confrontation with the U.S. might signal the beginning of a new era in relations between the two nations in the next five to 10 years."
PÃ©rez specializes in Latin American politics, U.S.-Latin American relations, civil-military relations and the politics of developing nations. He is a Cuban-American who emigrated from Cuba with his parents at an early age and still has family on the island. He has recently worked on a project studying student leaders in Cuba, Panama and the U.S. and worked with a colleague to create a study-abroad program in Cuba that took 10 students to the island in 2004. He speaks English and Spanish.