Cuban leader Fidel Castro, whose 49-year rule was marked by an anti-Israel stance, has stepped down.
Castro, 81 and in ill health for more than a year, said Tuesday that he will not accept a nomination to a new term as president. Castro’s brother Raul, 76, his designated successor, is expected to be nominated in his place at the National Assembly’s meeting Feb. 24
There are no immediate signs that the treatment of Jews living in Cuba will change. Jews in Cuba enjoy religious freedoms and receive special rations from the government for kosher meat.
Castro, who seized power in 1959 but in recent years, set his country firmly against the Jewish state.
In 1966, he opened guerilla training camps for Palestinians, beginning a lifelong relationship with the Palestinians and their leader, Yasser Arafat. Speaking to the First Party Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in 1975, two years after breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel and assisting the Syrians in the 1973 Yom Kippur War against Israel, Castro declared that “Yasser Arafat is a man we deeply love and admire and to whom we have always shown our solidarity.”
Cuba co-sponsored a 1975 United Nations resolution equating Zionism with racism. In 1991, Cuba voted against a U.N. resolution revoking the Zionism-equals-racism resolution. At the first U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, Castro called on delegates to “put an end to the ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people” by Israel.
The Cuban government’s official newspaper, the Communist Party’s Granma, consistently has maintained an anti-Israel editorial stance.
There are currently less than 1,000 Jews living in Cuba, down from about 30,000 in the 1950s.