UK”s democracy call after Castro retires


London : Downing Street said Tuesday the retirement of Cuban leader Fidel Castro is “an opportunity” for the country to make progress towards democracy. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s official spokesman said he hoped it would lead “to more respect for human rights and the release of political prisoners”.

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“This is now an opportunity to make progress towards a peaceful transition to a pluralist democracy”, the spokesman added.

Castro said he will not return to the presidency because of ill health.

He handed over power temporarily to his brother, Raul, in July 2006 when he underwent intestinal surgery. The 81-year-old has ruled Cuba since leading a communist revolution in 1959.

Last December, Castro indicated that he might possibly step down in favour of younger leaders, saying “my primary duty is not to cling to any position”.

For his part, Ian Gibson, chair of the UK parliamentary all-party group on Cuba, said he thought Castro’s retirement could lead to an opening out of the island’s relations with the rest of the world.

“I think the spirit of the revolution will live on in the younger generation of Cubans, but I would certainly think there will be differences in the relationships with other countries”, he told the BBC.

“Cuba understands that it is a global economy now, I think there will be less fear of America and more interaction with Europe”, Gibson added.