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Fidel Steps Down from Presidency

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Fidel Steps Down from Presidency

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Fidel Steps Down from Presidency

Fidel Steps Down from Presidency

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Fidel Castro is officially retiring as the leader of Cuba after almost half a century. In a message to the communist nation Castro said he would not seek a new presidential term when the legislature meets this Sunday.

BILL WOLFF (Announcer): From NPR News in New York, this is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Live at from NPR studios in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, this is the THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News. News, information, a day long remembered. It has seen the end of Kenobi; it will soon see the end of the rebellion.

(Soundbite of Darth Vader breathing)

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: I'm Rachel Martin.

ALISON STEWART, host:

That was a really good James Earl Jones. Not! An excellent try. I'm Alison Stewart. It is Tuesday, February 19, 2008. We will explain all of this.

MARTIN: And we will stop doing that.

STEWART: And we'll stop doing that right now. As long as we're talking about outer space, hey, the U.S. is going to try to shoot down a satellite. Did you hear this?

MARTIN: I know. This is crazy. But it's not. It's for real.

STEWART: It's for real, how they're planning to do it. What happens if it's not possible.

MARTIN: Also the president's aid package for Africa. Malaria prevention is a big part of it; we will delve deeper into that story.

STEWART: And we'll also talk about the big story of to, we'll sort of get it to momentarily. Fidel Castro is stepping down; we'll discuss what all of that means.

Of course we'll have The Most. All of our producers will come in-studio. And I'm just going to give you a little tease. My most Beelzebufo(ph). That's all I'm saying. You can look it up, or you can just wait for The Most…

MARTIN: You couldn't even spell that, if you were going to Google that.

STEWART: Beelzebufo.

MARTIN: Beelzebufo. We'll also get the headlines in just a minute. But first, here's the BPP's Big Story.

Yes, Fidel Castro is officially retiring as the leader of Cuba after almost half a century as commander in chief. In a message to the communist nation, Castro said he would not seek a new presidential term when the nation's legislature meets this Sunday.

STEWART: The 81-year-old has not appeared in public for almost 19 months, since he underwent emergency stomach surgery of July of 2006. His younger brother, Raul, has been running the country since then and is expected to be nominated as president.

MARTIN: In response to the news, President Bush, who's traveling in Africa, had this to say.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Eventually this transition ought to lead to free and fair elections - and I mean free and I mean fair. Not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as being true democracy.

STEWART: The announcement marks the end of a reign that began in 1959 when Castro led guerilla forces down from the mountains of eastern Cuba to overthrow U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.

MARTIN: Castro's retirement closes a career that spanned the Cold War and survived U.S. wrath, assassination plots by the CIA, and the demise of Soviet communism.

You want some idea how long Fidel Castro was in power? Well, this is what the news sounded like 49 years ago, when Castro celebrated the anniversary of the revolutionary movement that brought him to power.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Announcer: One million machete-wielding peasants jammed the square before Cuba's national capitol in response to the call of Fidel Castro for a celebration of the sixth anniversary of his 26th of July revolutionary movement. It is perhaps the greatest mass rally ever seen in the western hemisphere, a telling demonstration of Castro's sway over the Cuban masses.

STEWART: Two years after that report, the U.S. broke-off relations with Cuba. President Eisenhower's press secretary, James Haggerty, made the announcement.

Mr. JAMES HAGGERTY (U.S. Press Secretary): There is a limit to what the United States and self-respect can endure. That limit has now been reached. Our friendship for the Cuban people is not affected.

MARTIN: Castro's retirement does not mean the end of one party communist rule in Cuba, and his statement today said, quote, "This is not my farewell to you." But anti-Castro activists hope it is the beginning of the end.

STEWART: Ninoska Perez of Miami's Cuban Liberty Council said of the news, quote, "The real celebration will be when he can no longer write about it.

That is the BPP's Big Story.

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