Students respond as long-time leader Fidel Castro steps down

Castro’s decision has students talking about the future of Cuba.

Cuban President Fidel Castro announced his resignation Tuesday after nearly 50 years of rule in the country.

Castro, whose health has been waning, wrote a letter to Cuban newspaper Granma making the announcement.

The resignation has made international headlines. As Cuba’s government transitions to a new era, University students and faculty responded to the news.

David Samuels, an associate professor of political science who specializes in Latin American politics, said Castro’s resignation was a sign the government already had plans for a next-in-line to succeed him, picking a “choice that is OK with the powers that be.”

While no one predicts Cuba’s highly socialist government will change with the ceremonial transfer of power, Samuels said he expects its government to shift away from communism sometime in the next five to 10 years, most likely after Castro’s death.

“They need some change in that country,” Samuels said. “Their economy depends on the goodwill of other countries.”

While Samuels seemed certain the political climate wasn’t headed for imminent change, some pieces of Cuba’s political future have yet to be decided.

“Without a great mobilizing force (like Castro) at the center, the country might suffer,” Samuels said. “He’s done a lot of great things for the Cuban people, but nobody deserves to be in power for 50-some years.”

First-year pre-law student Fatima Garcia said Castro’s decision caught her off guard.

“I was pretty surprised that he finally resigned because of his health,” she said.

Garcia, a member of the La Raza Student Cultural Center group, said she hopes the U.S. government allows Cubans to make adjustments themselves.

Garcia said she wondered “how (Cubans are) going to handle this, both the community and the government.”

Garcia said a new leader will be a good thing for the country.

“I just hope they get a government that suits their citizens,” she said.

Eden Torrez, a Chicano studies professor, said she was “very sad” to see Castro step down.

“I think that he was a unique figure in world history,” she said.

Torrez said seeing Castro leave “upsets the balance” of ideological world leaders. Castro’s socialism was an important dynamic in world politics, she said.

“I think he was one of the last great believers in socialism,” she said.

Despite Castro’s nearly half-century of rule, Torrez said she thought he wasn’t driven by a desire for “power and greed.”

“I believe he had the best interest of the people in his heart,” she said.

Miranda Bostan, a junior studying Spanish, said she saw the headline announcing Castro’s resignation earlier in the morning and that his age was a driving force behind his resignation.

“I think he simply has been realizing he’s too old,” she said.

Bostan said she thought 81-year-old Castro decided to step down because of personal problems, not the global political situation.

Bostan agreed with Garcia and said she thinks the Cuban people should take a leading role in developing a new government.

“I hope that the U.S. doesn’t butt in too much,” she said.

Castro decided to step down, she speculated, in order to make sure his successor would do a good job.

“He’ll still be alive to see what’s going to happen,” she said.