Fidel Castro's announcement that he would neither seek, nor
accept, another term as president of Cuba is not expected to have an
immediate impact on US policy toward the communist island-state.
Rather, the announcement is viewed as a continuation of a
transition of power orchestrated by Mr. Castro himself. Analysts
expect his brother, Raul Castro, to be named president of Cuba on
Sunday when the party meets to select the State Council and
In terms of US-Cuban relations, analysts say, the developments in
Cuba fail to satisfy several conditions set by the Bush
administration for improved ties. Washington has maintained an
economic embargo for 46 years, and President Bush has refused to
consider lifting the embargo or otherwise improving relations as
long as Fidel Castro, or Raul Castro, holds the reins of power.
In comments from Rwanda, Mr. Bush repeated his administration's
conditions for improved ties to Cuba. "I view this as a period of
transition," he told reporters. "It should be the beginning of the
democratic transition for the people in Cuba."
Bush said the Cuban government should mark the current transition
by releasing political prisoners and by building democratic
institutions within Cuba.
John Negroponte, deputy secretary of State, told reporters that
Fidel Castro's announcement would not prompt a change in US policy
and a lifting of the trade embargo. "I can't imagine that happening
any time soon," he said.
Foreign-policy analysts agree. "This will have very little effect
on US policy since the Bush administration has made it clear that it
won't deal with any Cuban government led by either Fidel or Raul,"
says Wayne Smith, director of the Cuba Program at the Center for
International Policy in Washington.
"However ... Raul has indicated he is open to dialogue with the
United States; this could lead to some change under a new US
administration," he says.
Peter DeShazo, director of the Americas Program at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, says he does not expect any
substantial policy change in Washington.
"The administration's policy has been, Cuba should be
democratic," Mr. DeShazo says. "The administration has already said,
if it's Raul, or Fidel, it's still the same administration."
But he adds that there are potential openings now. "Raul Castro
has been in de facto control of the country since July 2006, and
really controls all the levers of power," DeShazo says. "The real
change here is that it gives him still greater legitimacy for making
reforms, making change, and I would expect those changes to come in
the economic area and not in the political area."
Reaction from Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, the heart of
the US Cuban exile community, was muted.
"It's a resignation on paper only," says Ramon Alvarez, a former
Cuban government worker who escaped to the US soon after Castro took