Venezuelan minister: Castro's exit opens new process

Other News Materials 19 February 2008 22:43 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- Cuban President Fidel Castro's decision to step down opens "a new process" in the revolutionary structure of the communist country, Venezuelan Communications Minister Andres Izarra said Tuesday.

Izarra was the first member of leftist President Hugo Chavez's government to comment on Castro's exit.

"A new process opens up for that country in its revolutionary structure. From here, we send you a hug, Fidel," Izarra said in a weekly radio address.

Castro, 81, said Tuesday he would step down from the formal leadership of the communist island, more than a year after illness forced him to temporarily hand over power to his brother, Raul.

"I will neither aspire to nor accept, I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief," Castro said in a message to the Cuban people published in the Communist Party daily Granma.

The posts, which Castro has held for decades, are to be filled when the new Cuban National Assembly holds its first meeting Sunday.

Chavez, a close friend and ally of the elderly Castro, did not immediately comment on his exit.

Venezuela and Cuba have been allies since Chavez was elected in 1998. The Venezuelan government sends abundant cheap oil to the communist island, and Chavez has said the two countries "are really just one government."