Saying he is no longer healthy enough to hold office, Cuban leader Fidel Castro has announced he will not seek reelection after 49 years in power and nearly 19 months sidelined by illness, marking the first official step in a long-awaited succession in the island's leadership.
''It would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer,'' the 81-year-old Castro wrote in a letter published in Tuesday's editions of Cuban newspapers. ``This I say devoid of all drama.''
Castro's not-unexpected announcement came just days before the Cuban National Assembly meets Sunday to select members and president of its Council of State. The president of the council is the official ruler of Cuba -- and that's been Castro since the council was established in 1976.
And now he has made clear that he will not seek reelection, making way for a new leadership for his communist government.