Newswise — As an ailing Fidel Castro resigns as Cuba's president after nearly a half-century in power, questions arise as to what his resignation will mean for the Communist country. The resignation ends the nearly 50-year rule of the 81-year-old Castro.

Born in Cuba, Rene De La Pedraja, PhD, is a professor of history at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY. He has done extensive research on Cuba and Fidel Castro.

According to Dr. De La Pedraja, "Castro's resignation will not have a direct impact on Cuba on a practical level, but on a deeper level, the resignation will close a chapter on the history of the country and bring the age of the revolutionary hero to a close."

As far as Fidel's brother, Raul, Dr. De La Pedraja notes that "Raul Castro has always been a more practical and realistic person with a particular feel for the material needs of Cubans. Look to Raul to do things to improve the living conditions of the average Cuban, like addressing the country's shortage of food and housing."

While many speculate that Castro's resignation could mean the beginning of a democratic transition, Dr. De Le Pedraja has this to say. "If a democratic transition means U.S.-style elections with campaign contributions, attack ads and the like, then, obviously, no." Instead, he says, "watch for Raul to increase the already large degree of popular participation at the municipal level. This is what in Cuba is known as 'direct democracy,' with people voting for individuals they know in their neighborhoods for local positions."

Dr. De La Pedraja can also discuss Cuban internal relations, Cuban-U.S. relations, Cuban history, Cuban relations in Latin America, Cuban business and economy, and the Cuban military.

Born in Havana, Cuba in 1951, Dr. De La Pedraja was sent by his parents to the U.S. during the Cuban Revolution. He subsequently became a U.S. citizen and earned his B.A. from the University of Houston in 1973, and his PhD in history from the University of Chicago in 1977. He spent more than ten years teaching at universities in Bogata, Columbia. He has authored three books, and is currently writing a fourth about Cuba's military.

Canisius College is one of 28 Jesuit colleges in the nation and the premier private college in Western New York. Canisius prepares leaders " intelligent, caring, faithful individuals " able to pursue and promote excellence in their professions, their communities and their service to humanity.