Archive for Friday, August 4, 2006

Cuba sends message of continuity

August 4, 2006

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— Cuba's communist government provided no new information on Fidel Castro's condition Thursday but sought to reassure Cubans that nothing would change.

"The revolution will continue" was the mantra chanted on state-run television and displayed in government newspapers three days after Fidel Castro temporarily ceded power to his younger brother Raul while recovering from surgery.

The acting president was still nowhere to be seen. Nor was the elder Castro, who turns 80 on Aug. 13. Yet the news media - all are run by the state - lined up Cubans to express confidence both in Fidel Castro's ability to recover quickly and in Raul Castro's competence to govern in the meantime.

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

Away from government cameras, however, some Cubans express wariness of life without Fidel Castro in charge.

"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."

A U.S. official said Cubans in contact with the American mission in Havana were also expressing fear and unease as they waited for new developments.

"We are seeing among the Cuban people a real sense that Fidel is never coming back to power - there seems to be a growing consensus in that direction," said Drew Blakeney, U.S. Interests Section spokesman. "There's a lot of anxiety about the unknown, about the future."

President Bush urged Cubans to work for democratic change.

"We will support you in your effort to build a transitional government in Cuba committed to democracy, and we will take note of those, in the current Cuban regime, who obstruct your desire for a free Cuba," Bush said in a statement issued by the White House. He said the U.S. was actively monitoring the situation in Cuba.

There were no new details on the status of Castro's health or news about where he was convalescing.

Juanita Castro, who lives in Miami and has been estranged from her brother, Fidel, since 1963, told CNN that she had spoken with people in Havana who told her Fidel 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."

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