The Communist leadership assured Cubans on Friday that Raul Castro was in firm control as acting president, and the health minister said Fidel Castro was “recovering satisfactorily” from intestinal surgery.
The government also issued its first decree since Fidel temporarily stepped down Monday for the first time in 47 years: The Foreign Ministry condemned Israel’s bombing of the Lebanese village of Qana, calling it “cowardly, vile and criminal” and urging the world to force an immediate cease-fire.
The statement came as the government insisted it was operating normally, even though the island’s longtime leader has temporarily ceded power to his younger brother Raul, the defense minister.
Some Cuban exiles, seizing on the unprecedented transfer of power, called for the U.S. government to do more to encourage a democratic transition on the island. But Cuba’s government appeared undaunted.
“The unity and strength of the Revolution is being reinforced,” said Granma, the Communist Party newspaper.
“We Cubans are prepared for the defense ... and Raul is there firmly at the helm of the nation, of the Revolutionary Armed Forces,” Granma said.
‘Fidel will recover soon’
Health Minister Jose Ramon Balaguer, a longtime party leader and physician, said Fidel “underwent surgery from which he is recovering satisfactorily.”
"We know Comandante Fidel will recover soon and will be back with us soon," he said.
During a visit to Guatemala, Balaguer said in a radio interview that Cuban officials had received “messages of support from the most far-flung places of the world” since Fidel fell ill.
Neither Castro brother has appeared publicly since the 75-year-old Raul was given temporary stewardship of Cuba.
Raul campaign launched
The Communist Party also launched a campaign emphasizing Raul’s revolutionary roots and loyalty to his older brother, whose 80th birthday is Aug. 13, and saying the revolution would continue during Fidel’s recovery.
Granma recounted Raul’s decision to assume responsibility for the disastrous 1953 attack on a military barracks that launched the Cuban Revolution after he believed his brother was killed.
When he discovered Fidel had survived, Raul returned to his role as soldier, according to the article, adding: “This is a story that cannot be ignored in the face of today’s events.”
The newspaper rejected President Bush’s call for democracy on the island, saying his statement Thursday ignored that Cuba is functioning normally. “What uncertainty is the president talking about?” Granma asked.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice implored Cubans not to flee the island for Florida. The message was transmitted over U.S. government radio and television stations that are beamed to Cuba. The stations have limited audiences because of Cuban jamming operations.