Castro remains a popular figure among many in Latin America [AFP]

The world reacts to the news that Fidel Castro's rule in Cuba is coming to an end.

Nicolas Maduro, Venezuelan foreign minister

Fidel has carried out a leading historic role in the last 50 years in the history of our world.

Whoever studies the history of Latin America and of humanity in the last 50 years will have to take account of the before and after of the Cuban revolution, the before and after of
Fidel Castro.

Evo Morales, Bolivian president

For me, it is painful that the president, commander Fidel, has asked the national assembly
to leave him out of the presidency.

I feel a lot, I have felt a lot, I've learned a lot from him, working towards unity and solidarity.

Eloy Gutierrez-Menoyo, former exile now in Cuba

I think if Castro doesn't cling on to things and keep trying to manage it all, there is a possibility that whoever gets nominated by the national assembly of popular power can move forward openly towards economic and political changes in a way that isn't destabilising.

Change will happen whether the rulers want it or not. Change is a question of necessity in a country which is destroyed, a country which initially depended on the Soviet Union, then on Venezuelan oil.

I think it's time for us to depend on ourselves, the Cubans, so change will come whether they want it or not.

Pascale Andreani, French foreign ministry spokeswoman

[France wishes] to see Cuba engage on the path of democracy and respect of human rights.

France expresses again its friendship for the Cuban people and reiterates it is available to
co-operate with this country and to accompany it on the path to democracy and respect for human rights.

Miriam, Cuban boat worker

He will continue to be my commander in chief. He will continue to be my president.

But I'm not sad because he isn't leaving and after 49 years he is finally resting a bit.

Oswaldo Paya, Cuban dissident

This is a crucial moment. Cuba wants change, the people want change.

Change means allowing them to enjoy their rights and take part in the deciding Cuba's future, in an atmosphere of reconciliation and order.

Barack Obama, Democratic US presidential candidate

Today should mark the end of a dark era in Cuba's history. Fidel Castro's stepping down is an essential first step, but it is sadly insufficient in bringing freedom to Cuba.

The prompt release of all prisoners of conscience wrongly jailed for standing up for the basic freedoms too long denied to the Cuban people would mark an important break with the past.

It's time for these heroes to be released.

Gennady Zyuganov, Russian Communist Party leader

It's a brave decision and in taking it, I'm sure Fidel Castro was guided by the interests of his country and his people

[He is] a fantastic political leader who has hosted high the flag of freedom.

George Bush, US president

I view this as a period of transition and it should be a beginning of the democratic transition for the people in Cuba.

Eventually this transition ought to lead to free and fair elections. And I mean free and I mean fair.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazilian president

Fidel is the only living legend in the history of mankind. He took this initiative and I believe it will be good for Cuba.

What we feared was, in a bad-case scenario, that a turbulent process might happen, and that the Cubans of Miami might think that the moment had come to return to Cuba and turn the island into a conflict zone.

Juan Acosta, Cuban living in the US city of Miami

It's very good that Fidel resigns. But if Fidel dies, it's better.

The system there is almost over. You are seeing the end.

John McCain, Republican US presidential candidate

Cuba's transition to democracy is inevitable; it is a matter of when, not if.

With the resignation of Fidel Castro, the Cuban people have an opportunity to move forward and continue pushing for the moment that they will truly be free.

America can and should help hasten the sparking of freedom in Cuba. The Cuban people have waited long enough.

Hillary Clinton, Democratic US presidential candidate

The new leadership in Cuba will face a stark choice - continue with the failed policies of the past that have stifled democratic freedoms and stunted economic growth - or take a historic step to bring Cuba into the community of democratic nations.

The people of Cuba want to seize this opportunity for real change and so must we.

Source: Agencies