Bay Area reacts to Castro's resignation

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image none"><span>none</span></div><span class="caption-text">In a file photo Fidel Castro exhales cigar smoke during a March 1985 interview at his presidential palace in Havana. Ailing leader Fidel Castro resigned as Cuba&#39;s president early Tuesday Feb . 19, 2008, saying in a letter published in official online media that he would not accept a new term when the newly elected parliament meets on Sunday. &#40;AP Photo&#47; Charles Tasnadi&#47;file&#41; </span></div>
February 19, 2008 11:31:32 PM PST
Cuban president Fidel Castro has resigned after nearly 50 years of ruling that country with an iron fist. The Bush Administration says it will not lift a five-decade trade embargo, calling Castro's successor, his brother, Raul Castro, "dictator-like." What kind of changes will Raul Castro bring?

Raul Castro has always been very loyal to his brother, president Fidel Castro. So on Tuesday, there was very little excitement among Cubans living here and especially those living in Miami.

Cuban exiles talked outside a San Francisco cafe about President Fidel Castro stepping down.

Raul Castro has been running the country for more than a year after Fidel became ill.

"There were great expectations that when Fidel became sick the regime would shake and major changes would be forthcoming that didn't happen," said Harley Shaiken from the U.C. Berkeley Center for Latin American Studies.

Under Raul's leadership many believe democracy will not come to Cuba any time soon. But there could be some minor changes.

"Raul reportedly would like to open up the economy along the Chinese model where the party and the government retain control politically, but where they are much more open in terms of inviting international investment," said Shaiken.

This Cuban exile says most people in Cuba want little change.

"If Cuba changes I hope they continue to have everything they have now like free medical and free education. Cuba is a wonderful place," said Cuban exile Roberto Perez.

Castro has long been a controversial figure. His rebel army liberated Havana from the Batista regime in 1959. He promised free elections.

"When will you have free elections? I think in 18 months we will have free elections, less than one year," said Fidel Castro in 1959.

Despite that promise, Castro retained his post for nearly 50 years. Today, there is some talk about which U.S. presidential candidate will have a better relationship with the next Cuban leader.

"With either Barack or Hillary, we're likely to see more flexibility. With John McCain I think we'll see a continuation of what we have seen over the past five decades," said Shaiken.

On Sunday, Cuba's National Assembly meets to formally choose the next president; it is assumed Raul will be selected.

Fidel Castro is 81 years old. He said he will begin writing about events in Cuba. Castro says, "Perhaps my voice will be heard."


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