Castro Steps Down, For Now

The world's longest ruling head of government has stepped aside temporarily.

Fidel Castro has handed over presidential powers to his brother Raul, who already serves as Cuba's defense minister.

In a letter read on state television, Castro said that he had undergone "a complicated surgical procedure" because of intestinal bleeding. The health problem was blamed on the stress of recent public appearances in Cuba and Argentina.

The transfer of power was described one of "provisional character."

Castro also said celebrations scheduled for his 80th birthday have been pushed back from August 13th until December. He's held power through ten US administrations beginning with Dwight Eisenhower. He's also survived assassination attempts, an invasion by a CIA-trained exile army -- and a standoff with Washington over Soviet missiles.


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