Wednesday, February 20, 2008
With Tuesday's announcement of Fidel Castro's retirement as president of Cuba and commander-in-chief of its armed forces, one of the great political stories of the 20th century comes to an anti-climactic end. Castro, the communist dictator of a tiny island nation just off the coast of Florida, proved to be an almost constant irritant to a long list of U.S. presidents, starting with John F. Kennedy. Castro was even mentioned as a possible suspect in the assassination of Kennedy in 1963, since Kennedy had apparently authorized a covert attack on Cuba that ended in defeat in 1961 and in light of heightened tensions during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The Soviets were Castro's biggest backers, and the United States has had no diplomatic or eonomic relationship with Cuba since Castro seized power in 1959. Castro's brother, Raul, who took over a caretaker government in 2006, is the new head of state. President Bush said Tuesday that he hoped Cuba under Raul Castro would embrace free elections and other democratic reforms, according to the Reuters international news service.