Sunday, August 13, 2006

Castro turns 80, sends a sober message

Castro turns 80, sends a sober message

By ANITA SNOW, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 30 minutes ago

Fidel Castro sent Cubans a sober greeting on his 80th birthday Sunday, saying he faces a long recovery from surgery — and warning they should be prepared for "adverse news." But he encouraged them to be optimistic and said Cuba "will continue marching on perfectly well."

As a newspaper printed the first pictures of Castro since his illness, his younger brother, Raul, made his first public appearance as Cuba's acting president. State TV showed him at the airport greeting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on his arrival to celebrate Fidel's birthday.

Castro, who underwent surgery for an unspecified intestinal ailment that forced him to step aside as president two weeks ago, said in a statement that his health had improved, but stressed he still faced risks.

"To affirm that the recovery period will take a short time and that there is no risk would be absolutely incorrect," said the statement in the Communist Youth newspaper, Juventud Rebelde. "I ask you all to be optimistic, and at the same time to be ready to face any adverse news."

The Communist Party's newspaper, Granma, had offered a rosier picture of Castro's condition on Saturday, saying he was walking and talking again, and even working a bit. It compared him to a resistant tropical hardwood tree found in eastern Cuba, where he was born.

Raul Castro, 75, made no statements Sunday, maintaining the silence he's kept since Fidel put him temporarily in charge on July 31. He is currently the island's defense minister, and is set to rule Cuba permanently if his brother passes away or fails to regain enough strength to govern. But he's always been in his brother's shadow, even as he battled the government of Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s and helped launch the Cuban revolution.

News of Castro's surgery had made Cubans uneasy about the future, but a series of upbeat statements from government officials helped calm a public now facing up to the mortality of the island's longtime leader.

Juventud Rebelde published four photographs of Castro, giving the first view of the leader since July 26, when he gave two speeches in eastern Cuba. He looked a bit tired, but sat up straight, his eyes alert.

Wearing a red, white and blue Adidas warm-up jacket — the colors of the Cuban flag — Fidel was shown talking on the phone and holding up a special birthday supplement included in the Saturday edition of the state newspaper.

The photos were credited to Estudios Revolucion, a division of Castro's personal support group that collects historic documents and images. They seemed designed to prove he was recovering from his surgery, and there was no way to independently confirm the date or circumstances in which they were taken.

After being welcomed at the airport by Raul Castro and Vice President Carlos Lage, Chavez gave the elder Castro a dagger and a coffee cup that had belonged to South American independence fighter Simon Bolivar, Venezuela's state news service ABN said. No other details of the meeting were provided.

The normally vibrant Cuban society has appeared somewhat subdued since Castro announced his illness, with some privately expressing fears for the nation's future. And while Castro's assessment of his own condition was tempered, many Cubans interviewed seemed joyful to receive proof he was alive and getting around.

"What happiness I received!" exulted an elderly Margot Gomez after seeing the newspaper during a morning walk in Havana. "Long live Fidel and long live the revolution! He knows what to do to convert setbacks into victories!"

Dozens of children in the Old Havana neighborhood celebrated Castro's birthday with a blindfolded boxing match and other games, as well as with a cake that read "Always With You Fidel." The boys and girls cheered and shouted "Long live Fidel!" after singing "Happy Birthday" for the Cuban leader.

A leading Cuban official voiced support Sunday for both Castro brothers.

"After Fidel, Raul is the man who is in the best condition to direct the destinies of this nation, either at Fidel's side or when he is no longer here," Cuba's minister for the sugar industry, Gen. Ulises Rosales del Toro, said while directing a crew of Foreign Ministry officials working in the fields to show support for Castro on his birthday.

And Russian President Vladimir Putin, while wishing Fidel Castro a speedy recovery, promised that Russia and Cuba would continue to be "active partners" in the future. Putin's government has sought to revive relations with the island, which had weakened following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Bolivian president Evo Morales led about a thousand peasants in singing "Happy Birthday" to Castro outside a hospital staffed by Cuban doctors. "We will always be together. Long live Fidel, Long live Cuba!" said Morales, who vowed to bring Castro a cake made of coca flour in December.


On the Net:

Juventud Rebelde:

Cuban Conga Master Miguel ‘Angá’ Díaz Dies at 45

A tragic early death for a phenomenal musician. Check out "A Love Spreme" on his last album.

Cuban Conga Master Miguel ‘Angá’ Díaz Dies at 45
08/10/2006 09:04PM
Contributed by: WMC_News_Dept.

ObituariesUK - British label World Circuit announced today the death of Miguel ‘Angá’ Díaz. "World Circuit are shocked and saddened to announce the death of the great Cuban conga player Miguel ‘Angá’ Díaz who died unexpectedly at his home in Barcelona on 9th August 2006, he was 45."

With his explosive soloing and inventive five conga patterns, Angá’ was widely regarded as one of the world’s great congueros. He was committed to the development of the conga drum, breaking down traditional percussion barriers to perform traditional Latin rhythms, jazz, jungle and hip-hop, whilst retaining his distinctly Cuban roots.

Angá began playing prodigiously early, performing and recording professionally whilst still at college. He made his name as part of the pioneering Latin jazz group Irakere and it was with them he perfected his five drum technique. Emerging in the mid-nineties as an independent musician Angá was free to diversify and pursue a variety of different projects – from the experimental jazz of Steve Coleman and Roy Hargrove, to hip hop with Orishas, to his tours with Omar Sosa, and numerous side projects with musicians from all over the globe, Angá’s musical journey was a personal quest to explore and create new sounds and rhythmic fusions.

More than just a performer, Angá further demonstrated his commitment to the development of his instrument by teaching master classes at various schools and universities across North America and Europe. Angá produced a tuition video in 2000 which explained many of his techniques and his philosophy behind playing, it won Percussion Video of the Year from Drum Magazine. Angá would continue to teach on a regular basis and built up a network of students from his base outside of Barcelona.

Angá’s first project with World Circuit was the hugely influential Afro Cuban All Stars album, A Toda Cuba Le Gusta, recorded in 1996 which showcased the depth and vitality within Cuban music. Angá became an integral part of World Circuit’s extended Buena Vista Social Club family adding his trademark sound to albums from Rubén González, Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, Guajiro Mirabal, and the second Afro Cuban All Stars record. Angá’s own musical vision would emerge with the release of the album ‘Cachaíto’ an inspired union of Afro-Cuban jazz, reggae, hip hop and funk which he recorded with the Cuban bass legend Cachaíto López.

Building from the foundations laid by Cachaíto’s record, and incorporating elements of his own Santeria religion, Angá would finally fulfil his dream in 2005 with the release of his critically acclaimed album Echu Mingua, an exciting fusion of styles blended together the ‘Cuban way’ and is a fitting testament to the career of one of the great musical innovators.

"Angá was an irrepressible character with a larger than life personality, whose beaming grin and booming laugh were matched by a warmth and humility that touched all of those lucky enough to know him. He will be sorely missed," said a World Circuit press release.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Cuban dissident Gustavo Arcos dies at 79

Cuban dissident Gustavo Arcos dies at 79

By ANITA SNOW, Associated Press Writer 6 minutes ago

Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, who fought alongside Fidel Castro in the Cuban revolution but was later imprisoned as a dissident, died Tuesday, according to a close family friend. He was 79.

Clara Villar, a friend and neighbor of the Arcos family, and the Calzada and K mortuary nearby said Arcos died around noon Tuesday in Havana. The cause of death was not immediately known, but Arcos had been hospitalized recently.

"He was one of the most respected people in the human rights movement in Cuba," said Carlos Menendez, of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and Reconcilation, which traces its roots to the group Arcos led in the late 1970s and 1980s. Menendez characterized Arcos as "moral, selfless and courageous."

Arcos died while Castro was out of power. The Cuban leader temporarily ceded the presidency to his brother Raul Castro last week following intestinal surgery.

With his own health failing, Arcos told The Associated Press in a May 2005 interview that he feared he would not live to see a Western-style democracy take root in his homeland.

"I do hope I will see the end of this," he said then, "but I'm not sure if I will."

Born on Dec. 19, 1926, in the small central Cuban town of Caibarien, Arcos was studying diplomatic law at the University of Havana when he first met Castro.

Arcos deeply opposed the government of Fulgencio Batista and joined Castro's ill-fated 1953 assault on a military barracks that launched the Cuban revolution. Arcos was shot in the right hip and left partially paralyzed.

The survivors were imprisoned and later freed under a pardon and Arcos traveled with the group to Mexico to organize a rebel army.

Arcos, known by the pseudonym "Ulises," traveled throughout Costa Rica, Venezuela and the United States gathering money and munitions for the movement.

The other rebels, meanwhile, traveled back to Cuba on the yacht "Granma" to launch a guerrilla war. Arcos' brother Luis was among those killed by Batista's forces when the boat landed.

Arcos was named Cuba's ambassador to Belgium after the 1959 triumph of the Cuban revolution, but soon became disillusioned by the growing authoritarianism of the Castro regime.

"They shot a lot of people," Arcos told the AP in 2005 of the summary trials held after the revolutionaries took power. "They shot people who could have easily been imprisoned."

By the time Arcos returned to Cuba in the mid-1960s, the government had turned socialist.

Arcos began expressing his discontent privately and was soon accused of being a counterrevolutionary. When he was released after three years in prison, the government refused his request to leave the country.

Arcos and his younger brother, Sebastian, became involved in the Cuban Committee for Human Rights, formed in 1978 as one of the first groups of its kind after Castro took power almost two decades earlier.

The Arcos brothers were imprisoned in 1981, for trying to leave the country illegally. Sebastian Arcos, who became a leading rights activist in his own right, died from cancer in 1997.

Shortly after his release from prison in 1988, Gustavo Arcos replaced the committee's executive director, who was forced into exile. In subsequent years, pro-government mobs occasionally gathered outside Arcos' home to chant insults.

Through the committee, Arcos issued reports about human rights complaints to international organizations and distributed copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the island.

Arcos leaves his wife, Teresa, who he married shortly after his final release of prison in 1988. He also told of having a son, from a previous relationship, and two granddaughters, all of them in the Miami area.

White House Weighs Change to Cuba Policy

New York Times
August 8, 2006
White House Weighs Change to Cuba Policy

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7 — With the fate of Fidel Castro still unclear, the Bush administration is looking for ways to prevent a possible surge in illegal immigration from Cuba while perhaps easing the way for some Cuban-Americans to bring their relatives to the United States.

Any effort by Cubans to enter the United States illegally by boat or other means will still be blocked, and officials are considering adopting a policy of rejecting new or pending visa applications for anyone caught trying to sneak in.

But the administration is considering setting up a system that would speed the immigration process for Cubans with close relatives in the United States who have entry applications pending, according to a report on Monday by The Associated Press that was confirmed by two federal officials.

The change would not necessarily increase the number of Cubans annually given permission to enter the United States, which is about 22,000, but it would give people with families here higher priority.

Before the Cubans could come to the United States, however, Cuba would have to grant them exit permits, said the officials, who asked not to be identified because no final policy decisions had been made.

Consideration of policy changes has been accelerated by the recent transfer of power from Mr. Castro to his brother Raúl.

The officials said another possible change would ease immigration for Cuban doctors who have gone abroad as part of a program sponsored by the Cuban government to send physicians to developing nations. But the United States would block immigration for Cubans with ties to the Castro government who have been involved in human rights abuses.

Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, which oversees immigration enforcement matters, said that no changes had been made and that Cubans should not see these discussions as a reason to consider trying to enter the United States illegally.

“The administration continues to urge Cuban people to stay on the island and work for a democratic Cuba,” Mr. Knocke said.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Raul Castro stays out of sight in Cuba

Raul Castro stays out of sight in Cuba

By ANITA SNOW, Associated Press Writer = Thu Aug 3, 10:37 AM ET

Raul Castro has spent his entire life in the shadow of his older brother Fidel. As Cuba's acting president, he continues to be on the sidelines. The focus remained entirely on Fidel Castro Thursday as Cuba's state-run media ran messages wishing a swift recovery after surgery for intestinal bleeding to the only ruler most Cubans have ever known.

"Certain of your rapid recovery, always toward victory!" a graduating class of Interior Ministry cadets said in a collective greeting to Castro on the front page of the Communist youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde.

But Castro's illness has left many Cubans uneasy.

"I, at least, am worried, because without him we are nothing," gardener Rafael Reyes said. "We hope that he will recover and leave (the hospital) soon."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il sent a message to Castro wishing him a speedy recovery, North Korea's state media reported.

"I extend deep sympathy and comfort to you after learning the surprising news that you received surgery for a sudden disease," Kim said in the message, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. "I sincerely hope that you will recover (at) an early date and continue to carry out the Cuban revolution and significant duties bestowed to you by the people."

Three days after he was granted temporary control of the country, Raul Castro — the brother Fidel reportedly trusts more than anyone — still was nowhere to be seen. It was unclear why.

The elder Castro also made no appearances, though his inner circle issued a statement purportedly from the leader late Tuesday saying he was in good spirits and beginning his recovery. His sister Juanita Castro, who lives in Miami and has been estranged from him since 1963, told CNN she had spoken with people in Havana who told her that her brother was released from intensive care Wednesday morning.

"He's not dead," she said, addressing rumors and speculation in South Florida that her brother had died. "He's very sick, but he's not dead."

Cuban Parliament Speaker Ricardo Alarcon told the New York-based independent radio show Democracy Now! that Castro was "very alive and very alert" when the men spoke Tuesday, and that Castro was clearly in charge, delegating specific tasks to his brother and six other high-ranking officials.

There was no other new information on Castro's health. The daily current events show on state television, replayed late Wednesday, focused on martial arts and synchronized swimming.

People in Havana continued to go about their daily business. Even so, there appeared to be an increase in police patrols in some working-class neighborhoods and in coastal areas that have seen civil disturbances in the past, such as during running power blackouts in the summer of 2005.

The Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the government's neighborhood watch groups, stepped up volunteer night patrols. Rapid Action Brigades, pro-government civilian groups used in the past to handle civil disturbances, were placed on standby.

In Washington, Republican senators began drafting legislation to implement a plan by the Bush administration to give $80 million over two years to Cuban dissidents fighting for democratic change. Prominent Cuban dissidents have been wary of such aid, saying it would only endanger them and their cause.

Sen. Robert Bennett (news, bio, voting record), R-Utah, said Bush told him the administration was caught off-guard by Castro's illness. "I think all of us can say we had no idea this was coming," he said.

He didn't elaborate, but the remarks may speak to the scanty reliable intelligence the U.S. has on its Cold War foe just 90 miles from Florida.

Cmdr. Jeff Carter of the U.S. Coast Guard, which patrols the water between Cuba and Florida, said there was no sign that Cubans were preparing to make the dangerous crossing in either direction.

Cuba says communists in control no matter what

Cuba says communists in control no matter what

By Anthony Boadle - Thu Aug 3, 12:36 PM ET

Cuba's Communist Party on Thursday stressed it would stay in control no matter what happened to convalescent leader Fidel Castro, but failed to clear up doubts over who is in charge of the island.

In a typically cryptic message analysts said was designed to dispel fears of a disorderly transition of power, the main Communist newspaper Granma printed part of an old speech by Cuba's temporary leader, Castro's brother Raul.

In the speech, delivered on June 14 to army officers and first printed in Granma the following day, Raul Castro said, "Only the Communist Party .... can be the worthy heir of the trust Cubans have placed in their leader."

Fidel Castro, a notorious workaholic whose 80th birthday is August 13, temporarily handed over power as president and commander in chief to his brother on Monday after undergoing surgery to stop intestinal bleeding.

Raul Castro, Cuba's defense minister and regarded as competent but uncharismatic, has long been known to be his successor. He is 75 years old.

Castro's old enemy, the United States, says it believes the one-time guerrilla, the world's longest-serving head of government, is still alive.

Despite a surface calm on the streets of Havana, many Cubans had told foreign reporters they wanted Raul to show someone is in control by making a public appearance.

But analysts said the leadership probably considered that if Raul appeared too early, it might panic Cubans by confirming that Fidel's rule was over.

"If I were going to try to suggest to the Cuban people at the moment that what we have is tranquillity, absolute continuity and a large team more in place than ever, the last thing I would do is make a national broadcast as in a time of crisis," said Hal Klepak, professor of history at the Royal Military College of Canada and an author of book on Cuba's military.

Klepak, who is in Havana doing research, said he had seen Raul Castro drive by in a motorcade close to Revolution Square on Thursday and that pedestrians stopped to see him pass and drivers leaned out of cars to get a better look.

"Everyone broke out into applause, and even quite a few "Vivas!," said Klepak.


Fidel Castro, who took power in 1959 when he led his ragged revolutionaries into Havana and has resisted almost permanent pressure for his overthrow from the United States, released a message on Tuesday saying he did not know if he would recover.

While close aide Ricardo Alarcon told a U.S. radio program on Wednesday that Castro was "very alert" and resting earlier in the week, Cubans are still desperate for information.

"Why hasn't Raul come out and spoken? That's what is needed," said a Havana delivery man on Thursday, asking not to be identified. "There is a dreadful calm here."

Despite wild celebrations at the news of the handover of power among Cuban exiles in Miami across the Florida Straits, there has been no sign here of unrest or that communist rule could collapse in an Eastern-European-style uprising.

While Cubans' lives have gotten tougher since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the capital Havana is falling to bits, the Communist Party exercises control in all areas of life. There is a lot of grumbling, but Cubans are still proud of free health and education.

Since Monday, people have gone about their normal business although there has been a small increase in police presence in poorer parts of the capital and communist neighborhood organizations said "rapid response groups" used to put down riots in the past had been activated.

Dan Erikson, analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington, said Cubans might have to wait some more before they know for certain who their leader is going to be.

"Cuban leaders may be evaluating whether Fidel is ready to be seen publicly before allowing Raul to present a stronger image," he said.

"Even if Fidel's operation goes well, there is no such thing as minor surgery for an 80-year-old man, and his convalescence may take many months."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Time: Raul a possible reformer?

Tuesday, Aug. 01, 2006
Why Raul Castro Could End Up a Reformer
The Cuban dictator's brother has long been known as Fidel's enforcer. But at 75, he is also less rigid and confrontational, and may have little choice but to open the island's economy

When the Bush Administration began delivering hundreds of suspected Al Qaeda terrorists to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba, in 2002, most in Washington expected Cuban President Fidel Castro to go ballistic. He didn't. And according to veteran Cuba watchers like former CIA analyst Brian Latell, it was Fidel's younger brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro, who kept the communist dictator's anti-yanqui rants in check. Going further, Raul even assured reporters that if any Guantanamo prisoners escaped, Cuban security forces would capture and return them - a gesture that left much of the international community scratching its head.

Raul Castro has always been known as Fidel's enforcer - the ideologically hardline, iron-fisted watchdog of his big brother's regime. It's hardly an undeserved rep, one he started building by overseeing the summary execution of scores of soldiers loyal to former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista after Fidel overthrew Batista in 1959. But as Raul, 75, takes control of that government this week — at least, according to an official communiqu�, until Fidel recuperates from major surgery to stop intestinal bleeding — Washington may be straining for more signs of his lesser known side.

Indeed, Raul is also called "the practical Castro," and when and if he does succeed Fidel permanently, many Cuba watchers speculate that he'll actually bring a less confrontational, more reform-minded rule to the communist island. "I think he will try to adopt more of a China economic model, probably continuing much of the harsh political regime but allowing more private enterprise and loosening foreign investment rules," says Latell, a senior researcher at the University of Miami's Cuba Institute and author of the recently published book, After Fidel. "And I think he's also going to want better relations and more dialogue with the U.S."

Publicly, Bush Administration officials say that wouldn't be enough to lift Washington's 44-year-old economic embargo against Cuba. They insist that Raul, even if he does open Cuba's threadbare economy, is every bit the unacceptable tyrant Fidel is - someone who promises more of the autocratic status quo than any kind of democratic transition. But privately, some admit they prefer the prospect of a Raul interregnum to the kind of post-Fidel chaos that could result in tens of thousands of Cubans rafting into South Florida - just the sort of diplomatic and logistical crisis that has long spooked U.S. Presidents as much as Fidel Castro himself has. The U.S. also has to worry about a flood of joyous Cuban exiles suddenly heading back to their homeland and potentially exacerbating the chaos there, though the U.S. believes it has a solid Coast Guard plan to prevent that.

The 1996 Helms-Burton law essentially prohibits the U.S. from dealing with Raul if he succeeds Fidel. But some State Department officias confide that if Raul does take reform steps and reaches out to the U.S., it would be the height of folly for Washington to remain on the sidelines - no matter how many votes that might preserve in the politically potent Cuban exile community in South Florida.

In truth, Raul really has little choice but to be practical. He is known to be more down-to-earth and sociable than Fidel - unlike Fidel, he loves to drink, dance and tell ribald jokes - and he has been Fidel's most trusted No. 2 since they were guerrillas fighting in Cuba's eastern Sierra Maestra in the 1950s. But Raul enjoys little if any of the mystical popularity that Fidel still retains, at least among older Cubans, and which has helped keep him in power since his 1959 revolution. That's a big reason why the government in recent months has engineered a p.r. makeover for Raul which included a lengthy article in the official mouthpiece, Granma, highlighting his warm and fuzzy side as a family man and grandfather. But that may not do the trick. To forge a viable connection with Cuba's 11 million beleaguered people, many analysts believe Raul will also have to loosen their leashes more than Fidel ever allowed.

At a military celebration last month, Raul, who became a communist as a youth, well before Fidel, insisted that "only the Communist Party" can rule Cuba and "anything else is pure speculation." But at the same time, Raul may carry more perestroika in his political DNA than Fidel does. When the Soviet Union's lavish economic aid to Cuba disappeared in the early 1990s and many Cubans faced possible starvation, Raul convinced a reluctant Fidel to reopen the island's private agricultural markets as an incentive to increase food production. "Beans are more important than rifles," he insisted. Latell agrees: "It was Raul, not Fidel, who realized that Cuba was going to have to pursue economic reforms to survive" and he put many of his military officers in charge of new enterprises like tourism. In After Fidel, Latell writes that Raul, "unlike his brother, has never been motivated by an ego-charged quest for fame and glory or internationalist gratification. He does not thrive on conflict and confrontation as Fidel has since childhood. He worries more about the economic hardships the Cuban people endures�and is likely to more flexible and compassionate in power."

Other veteran Cuba analysts, not surprisingly, insist that this is too charitable a characterization of a man so long associated with an oppressive military and security apparatus, responsible for imprisoning and in many instances torturing thousands of dissidents. And a number of factors could keep Raul on the hard line even after Fidel dies. For one thing, the largesse of Fidel's left-wing and oil-rich ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has helped significantly to keep Cuba's economy afloat, lessening the urgency of economic reforms that many had expected under Fidel in recent years. (Cuba may also be buoyed by recent discoveries of ample crude reserves off its own coast.) What's more, just beneath Raul sit a number of younger and ideologically purer communist officials, like 40-year-old Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, who are known derisively by many Cubans as "los Taliban" and could limit Raul's room to maneuver on any potential reform.

For now, however, the Cuban government insists that Raul's hold of the reins is temporary - perhaps just a few weeks or months until Fidel is back on his feet. In all his 47 years in power, Fidel - who turns 80 on August 13 - has never ceded power like this to anyone. And when asked why, if Fidel really is still alive, he would so uncharacteristically let aides make such an important announcement rather than do it himself, reliable official sources in Havana insist that convalescence from his intestinal surgery requires that he do absolutely nothing but lie still in the following days, not even read a communiqu� on air.

Even U.S. intelligence officials caution that the jubilation in Miami1s Cuban exile community over Castro's imminent demise is "way too premature," says one. "At this point there's no reason to doubt what the Cubans themselves are saying about his condition." Pentagon and U.S. intelligence officials tell TIME they believe that Castro's operation occurred late last week--perhaps on Thursday or Friday--and that the Cuban government would not have announced the temporary transition arrangement unless it was sure that the dictator would pull through. Castro will have a lengthy convalescing period, these officials believe, during which his brother will have to make decisions and public appearances in his place. "This is a serious dry run of the their succession plan," another U.S. intelligence official says. "And they're looking at how the Cuban people and the international community reacts to Raul in charge." Sources in Cuba, however, dispute that notion and suggest the surgery only took place Monday morning of this week. Either way, even if Fidel should die in the coming days, Raul seems to represent the kind of unchaotic transition in Cuba that both Fidel and, frankly, the nine U.S. Presidents he has tormented since 1959, would prefer. - with reporting by Douglas Waller/Washington

From Havana's Granma: Fidel, recupérate

Granma - Fidel Story
La Habana, 2 de Agosto de 2006

Fidel, recupérate

Raisa Pagés

Lo más importante es que el país perfectamente marcha bien, afirmó Fidel en el mensaje enviado ayer a la Mesa Redonda Informativa.

Fidel, recupérateEl amor, respeto y consideración que se ha ganado Fidel en el mundo, a contrapelo de las campañas mediáticas del imperio norteamericano en contra de su obra revolucionaria y estatura moral, se constataron ayer en los miles de mensajes recibidos, desde todas partes del planeta, para desearle pronta recuperación.

Estadistas, figuras políticas, intelectuales, colaboradores cubanos en varios continentes, ciudadanos de todo el mundo transmitieron al Comandante su solidaridad en estos momentos difíciles.

Entre ellos el secretario general del Partido Comunista de China, Hu Jintao, presidentes latinoamericanos como Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales, Martín Torrijos, Alfredo Palacio, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, y altos dirigentes de otros continentes enviaron misivas al líder cubano.

La tranquilidad, la confianza y seguridad eran palpables en las calles, centros de trabajo, obras en construcción, tal como se apreció en las entrevistas difundidas en la Mesa Redonda Informativa. Los cables de las agencias de prensa acreditadas en Cuba revelaban esa tranquilidad.

El hecho de que el Jefe de la Revolución haya delegado provisionalmente sus funciones en Raúl Castro no solo está dentro de lo establecido por la Constitución de la República, sino que es un acto de justicia histórica.

Raúl fue el organizador de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias y del Partido dentro de esos mandos. Desde los primeros años de lucha de la Revolución, se ganó el derecho histórico de dar continuidad al proceso, algo natural para el pueblo cubano.

Las pretensiones del Gobierno norteamericano de enviar fuerzas de despliegue rápido a Cuba, una vez desaparecido Fidel, están dentro de los planes del enemigo. De ese peligro nos advierte el Comandante en Jefe en su Proclama.

Miami es la única excepción. En esa ciudad, se expresó el odio que alimenta el deseo de muerte de un ser humano.

Qué se puede esperar de los que desearon que se cayera el avión que transportaba al niño Elián González de regreso a su Patria con su padre, qué se puede esperar de gente que habla de la libertad de Cuba con banderas norteamericanas en las manos y carteles en inglés.

Les duele que en Cuba todo transcurre tranquilamente. Fidel se mantiene estable en su proceso de recuperación, el pueblo está unido y Raúl y un equipo de dirigentes se encargan del acontecer político, económico y social del país.

Some Cuban Exiles Give Up the Wait

From the Los Angeles Times
Some Cuban Exiles Give Up the Wait
Even if the Castro regime falls, there are expatriates entrenched in Miami who no longer seek to recapture their old lives on the island.
By Miguel Bustillo
Times Staff Writer

August 2, 2006

MIAMI — This city's voluble Cuban exiles, who have been on a collective Fidel Castro death watch for decades, shouted in the streets in a state of ecstasy Tuesday after the communist regime's surprising announcement that the charismatic caudillo had handed the reins of power to his brother.

Yet for many of the aging Cubans who came to the United States generations ago to flee Castro, the mood of exultation soon gave way to a sober realization: The dictator's long-awaited final hour will come too late for them to reclaim their lost lives.

Many Cuban exiles said they no longer harbored dreams of a glorious return home to open businesses and reclaim family properties in a free Cuba, as they did 10 or 20 years earlier. They are grounded in this country, their children are lifelong Americans, and they plan to stay.

"Why would I want to go to a country where I don't know anyone anymore, to a big house that needs hundreds of thousands of dollars of work?" asked Raquel Blizard, 70, whose aunt had willed to her a mansion, with a wrought iron veranda and ample servants' quarters, in Havana's once-fashionable Vedado neighborhood.

"My family, my husband and my children, they're all here now."

Calle Ocho, the heart of Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, was flooded with exiles waving Cuban flags, dancing and honking horns in cacophonous celebration, after Castro's secretary went on television Monday evening and said Castro, 79, was temporarily ceding power to his brother Raul, 75.

Trucks blared the Cuban national anthem on loudspeakers, while anti-Castro activists in guayabera shirts joyously waved banners that declared, "The tyrant is dead."

"There is a tremendous amount of excitement," said Miami's Cuban-born Mayor Manny Diaz, as he mingled at Versailles restaurant, the epicenter of the exile community. "This is a totalitarian government that has destroyed families, and it may be coming to an end."

Yet many of the Cuban exiles standing along the street made it clear that although they held an inexorable hatred for Castro, and a profound hope that they could live to see their old country returned to freedom, they were Americans now.

"Some people will leave Miami for Cuba, and the real estate market will probably drop," if the Castro government falls, said Mario Torralbas, 72, a retired dentist who stopped by Calle Ocho to revel in the emotion of Tuesday's moment. "But I bet you within a year, those people will be back in Miami. It's going to be very hard to fix the mess this man has made."

The Cuban government emphasized that the transfer of power to Raul Castro was only temporary while Castro recovered from emergency surgery — and the White House said its intelligence sources believed Castro was indeed alive.

Nonetheless, many Cuban exiles used to parsing the propaganda of the communist regime were convinced that the bearded strongman, who reportedly had Parkinson's disease, was dead and that the decision to transfer power was an attempt to soften the blow to the Cuban people. (A statement from Fidel Castro, in which he claimed to be "stable" and said "as for my spirits, I feel perfectly fine" was read on Cuban television Tuesday.)

Some, such as Rodolfo Frometa, the director of the paramilitary group Comandos F-4, spoke of seizing the opportunity to foment a rebellion and reestablish a democracy.

"Many times, we have heard rumors suggesting that Castro was dead only to see him give a four-hour speech a week later. But this time, I am sure that he is gone," Frometa said. "If he had any air left in his lungs, he would have gone on Cuban television himself and read that paper explaining what was happening, because Fidel understands the power he has over the people."

Others voiced less radical plans of action and predicted that if Raul Castro is in charge, the Cuban government will collapse on its own. Raul Castro, they said, does not possess the political dexterity or mesmerizing rhetoric that made Fidel Castro the exiles' archenemy for nearly half a century.

"Raul can't handle this," said Javier Sotolon, who came to the U.S. as a teenager 13 years ago and who skipped out on his job as a cement mixer to attend the anti-Castro celebration.

"Fidel is one of a kind," he added, holding his index finger in the air for emphasis. "No one else can hold that country together."

Although some of the exiles are nostalgic about their country and restoring an idealized Cuban society, the passage of time has dulled those dreams for many.

Fifteen years ago, a Miami Herald poll showed that one-fifth of the region's Cuban exiles — a significant slab of the city's financial and cultural bedrock — planned to return to Cuba the minute Castro lost power.

A virtual government in exile of elite Cubans, established with strong support from former presidents Reagan and Bush, and led by influential businessman Jorge Mas Canosa, stood waiting for Castro's demise.

Miami leaders faced serious questions about what would happen to their city's economy if the Cuban immigrants who did so much to transform it from a swampy backwater into a world-class metropolis suddenly decided to leave.

But Mas Canosa is now dead, along with many other members of his purported government in exile, and Cuba experts question whether many of Miami's remaining first-generation Cubans really want to go home at this point. At most some say, only about 10% of South Florida's estimated 800,000 Cuban immigrants would have a serious interest.

Moreover, Miami is now a cosmopolitan gateway to Latin America, with immigrants from dozens of nations, and no longer depends so heavily on the Cuban exiles to power its diverse economy.

"The much more likely outcome is going to be mass migration to the United States, not the other way around," said Damian J. Fernandez, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University.

"But I really don't believe we will see a one-or-the-other scenario. We will find great fluidity across the straits, with people investing in both nations, and a return to the era of the 1920s, where these two areas where closely connected."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Cuban-Americans wonder what comes next

Indeed, what comes next? Probably not the change most hoped for, though if Castro is permanently removed from power, perhaps that can open a window for change in relations. If Castro dies, the euphoria in Florida might slowly give way to the reality that not all dreams will be fulfilled.

Cuban-Americans wonder what comes next

By ADRIAN SAINZ, Associated Press Writer 19 minutes ago

Celebration in the streets of Little Havana gave way Tuesday to speculation about the state of Fidel Castro's health and what would happen in Cuba if he were to die, while county officials activated a rumor control hot line.

Castro remained out of sight Tuesday after undergoing intestinal surgery and temporarily turning over power to his brother Raul. Some in Florida speculated that the leader who has defied the United States for nearly half a century already could be dead.

"When a man has been in power for so long, they don't tell people at first. I am afraid that when people begin to realize that he is dead, the real fight for power will begin," said Eric Hernandez, 33, a writer for Telemundo who said he had canceled plans to return to Cuba on Friday to visit his father for the first time in five years.

South Florida's Cuban-American community of about 800,000 is the largest segment of the state's fast-growing Hispanic community and its influence is felt across Florida. Cheering crowds waving Cuban flags celebrated the news of Castro's illness late Monday and into early Tuesday.

One group had dressed as migrants wearing life jackets, pretending to paddle a cardboard boat down Little Havana's Calle Ocho in Miami — recalling the desperate journey many exiles have taken across the Florida Straits.

"This is a celebration of people of hope returning to their home country, something that is 40-something years in the making," said Joe Martinez, chairman of Miami-Dade County commissioners, who was born in Cuba.

Officials said Tuesday there were no arrests but the Miami-Dade County Emergency Operation Center raised its operations to level 2 status, monitoring the situation and activating the rumor control hot line.

Coast Guard officials said they were on standby but reported no significant increase in activity in the Florida Straits during the night. U.S. officials have long had plans in place to head off any possible mass exodus from Cuba by sea in case that the government suddenly opened the island's borders as occurred in 1980 and 1995.

Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, said under that plan the Coast Guard and other agencies would intercept people trying to go to or from Cuba.

"It's a plan to not allow for mass migration into the country at a time where the net result of that is that it creates tremendous hardship and risk for people that can lose their lives," Bush said Tuesday in Tallahassee.

A Coast Guard spokesman, Petty Officer Dana Warr, said no contigency plans had been activated and no personnel or assets had been moved as of Tuesday morning.

The Cuban population in Florida is hardly unified, with hard-line exiles urging a tough stance against Castro and a younger generation of Cubans who were born in the United States — or raised here most of their lives — more likely to support engagement with Cuba.

In Tampa's heavily Cuban-American Ybor City, Gladys Sequeira-Garcia said her family had been "in an uproar" since the news broke. They fled Cuba in 1960.

"My hope for Cuba would be for it to grow as the power it used to be," she said. "I want my parents to see Cuba back to the way it was when they left — the beautiful beaches, the growing economy and the happy people."

In Hialeah, Orlando Pino said he wants to return to Cuba when Castro dies.

"There's a lot of people in Cuba who are home crying," said Pino, 34, who arrived in the Miami area two years on a religious visa. "There's a lot of confusion over there because many people loved him."

Other said a transition to Castro's brother Raul would have little effect on the Cuban government's policies.

"Raul Castro will give the Cuban people nothing but business as usual," said David Sandoval, 28, lead singer of the Cuban-American funk band Delexilio and a New York City lawyer.

"It is only through nonviolent, democratic elections that a legitimate government and meaningful change can take hold in Cuba."

Miami-Dade College sociology professor Juan Clark, who specializes in Cuban affairs, said he was surprised that the announcement of Castro's illness was done so publicly.

Clark noted that when Castro had a well-publicized tumble in 2004, shattering a kneecap and breaking an arm, he did not delegate power to his brother.

"Either he is in very, very serious condition or he may have already passed away. They might well be preparing gradually for that succession that they want to take place," Clark said.


Associated Press writers Laura Wides-Munoz, Curt Anderson, Jessica Gresko, Jennifer Kay and Matt Sedensky in Miami, Phil Davis in Tampa and David Royse in Tallahassee contributed to this report.