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Cuba tries to quell fears of chaos

Cuba’s Communist Party tried to quell fears of chaos on Thursday following the temporary surrender of power by the ailing Fidel Castro but failed to clear up doubts over who is in charge of the island.
/ Source: Reuters

Cuba’s Communist Party tried to quell fears of chaos on Thursday following the temporary surrender of power by the ailing Fidel Castro but failed to clear up doubts over who is in charge of the island.

In a typically cryptic message, the main Communist Party newspaper Granma printed an old speech by Raul Castro, who took over island leadership on Monday, saying that his brother’s only heir was the Communist Party itself.

While the front page publication of the speech was obviously designed to quell fears that Fidel’s possible exit after 47 years of rule would unleash chaos, it could puzzle many Cubans who say they want to see Raul in public.

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

Fidel, a notorious workaholic whose 80th birthday is Aug. 13, temporarily handed over power to Raul after undergoing surgery to stop intestinal bleeding. While his brother, regarded as competent but uncharismatic, has long been known to be his successor, he is no youngster at 75.

Fidel, 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.

'Dreadful calm'
While close aide Ricardo Alarcon told a U.S. radio program on Wednesday that Castro, who had a stomach operation, was “very alert” and resting earlier in the week, Cubans are still desperate for information despite surface calm on the streets.

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

People have gone about their normal business but 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.

Some Cubans with relatives in the security forces said military and other uniformed personnel had been mobilized in barracks and police stations as a precaution.