Castro scoffs at idea Cuba will change

Associated Press
Published February 24, 2008

HAVANA - Fidel Castro on Saturday rejected the idea of major political change after Cuba's Parliament chooses a new president today.

The article on the front page of the Communist Party Granma was one of a flurry of recent columns and announcements from Castro, who is retiring after 49 years as head of Cuba.

Writing under his new title, "Comrade Fidel," the 81-year-old Castro scoffed at suggestions in news reports that his retirement, announced Tuesday, would lead to political changes aided by Cuban exiles in the United States. "The reality is otherwise," Castro wrote.

Castro said he would now lay his pen aside until lawmakers decide today on his replacement as president of the island's supreme governing authority, the Council of State. Castro's 76-year-old brother Raul, the defense minister, is his constitutionally designated successor as first vice president, and is widely expected to be named president.

Raul Castro has headed Cuba's caretaker government for 19 months, since Fidel announced he had undergone intestinal surgery and was provisionally ceding his powers.

In a separate report, Granma said "all the conditions have been created" for today's meeting of the 614-member Parliament, whose members were elected on Jan. 20. Renewed every five years, the Parliament known as the National Assembly is charged at its first gathering with selecting a new 31-member Council of State headed by the president.

Fidel Castro has held the position of president since the current government structure was created in 1976. He will remain the head of the Communist Party and a member of the National Assembly, to which he was re-elected last month.