Fidel Castro has been ill since July 2006
After 49 years in power, the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, has announced he is stepping down. In a message published in the on-line version of the state newspaper, Granma, Mr Castro said he would not accept another term as president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces when the new Cuban parliament meets on Sunday.
The following are excerpts from the message, translated by BBC Monitoring:
I promised you on 15 February that in my next reflections I would touch on a subject of interest for many compatriots. This time that reflection takes the form of a message...
I held the honourable position of president for a period of many years... Before that I had held the post of prime minister for nearly 18 years. I always exercised the necessary prerogatives to carry forward our revolutionary work with the support of the vast majority of the people.
Knowing about my critical state of health, many people overseas thought that my provisional resignation from the post of president of the Council of State on 31 July 2006, leaving it in the hands of the First Vice-President, Raul Castro, was definitive. Raul himself, who also holds the post of minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces on his own merit, and my other comrades in the party leadership and the state, were reluctant to think of me removed from my posts despite my precarious state of health...
Preparing the people for my psychological and political absence was my primary obligation after so many years of struggle. I never ceased to say that we were dealing with a recuperation that was "not free from risk". My desire was always to carry out my duties until my final breath. That is what I have to offer.
To my close compatriots, who did me the immense honour in recent days of electing me as a member of parliament, I tell you that I will not aspire to or accept - I repeat - I will not aspire to or accept the post of president of the Council of State and commander-in-chief.
The path will always be difficult and will require the intelligent strength of all of us... Always prepare for the worst scenario. 'Be as prudent in success as you stand firm in adversity' is a principle that must not be forgotten. The adversary we must defeat is extremely strong, but we have kept him at bay for half a century.
I do not bid you farewell. My only wish is to fight as a soldier of ideas. I will continue to write under the title 'Reflections of comrade Fidel'. It will be another weapon in the arsenal on which you will be able to count. Perhaps my voice will be heard. I will be careful."
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