Fidel Castro Gives Up Power – For Now

After surgery, the Cuban leader steps down, temporarily, for the first time in 47 years

Photo: Rafael Perez/Reuters/Corbis

After undergoing surgery, Cuban leader Fidel Castro has temporarily stepped down from power for the first time in 47 years.

On Monday night, Castro’s secretary read a message from him on live TV saying that Castro had had surgery for gastrointestinal bleeding that he said was a result of stress from recent trips to Argentina and eastern Cuba.

Castro, who turns 80 on Aug. 13, said he was handing over his presidency and leadership of Cuba’s Communist Party to his 75-year-old brother, Raul, whose is already Cuba’s defense minister, the Associated Press reports. Raul is also Castro’s constitutional successor.

Castro last appeared in public on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of his 1953 barracks assault that launched the revolution (he took control of Cuba in 1959).

In the letter read on Monday night, Castro said, “The operation obligates me to undertake several weeks of rest.” He added that stress “had provoked in me a sharp intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding that obligated me to undergo a complicated surgical procedure.”

It was unknown when or where the surgery took place, or where Castro was recovering, though NBC News reported Tuesday morning that the operation could have taken place as early as Sunday and is believed to be extremely serious.

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