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Uncertainty over Cuba’s fate eases

Public anxiety in Cuba over the future appeared to be easing on Tuesday eight days after veteran leftist leader Fidel Castro stunned the country by handing over temporary power to his brother.
Girls in Havana hold a picture of Cuban leader Fidel Castro during a gathering on Sunday.
Girls in Havana hold a picture of Cuban leader Fidel Castro during a gathering on Sunday.Javier Galeano / AP
/ Source: Reuters

Public anxiety in Cuba over the future appeared to be easing on Tuesday eight days after veteran leftist leader Fidel Castro stunned the country by handing over temporary power to his brother.

The communist authorities, however, kept police and security forces including military reservists, on alert.

Workers went about paving streets and tidying up boulevards in the crumbling capital Havana in preparation for a summit of the Nonaligned Movement of developing nations next month.

“People are getting used to the idea that Fidel will be out for weeks, for months or maybe for ever,” said driver Manuel, a Havana resident who said life was getting back to normal.

There was no new word on the condition of Castro, who on July 31 relinquished power to his brother Raul Castro after undergoing gastric surgery.

It was the first time Castro had handed over the reins in the 47 years he has ruled the Caribbean island nation of 11 million people.

Cuba claims peaceful succession of power
Cuban officials said on Monday they had achieved a peaceful succession of power. They repeated earlier assurances that Castro was getting better after stomach surgery but estimates on when he could retake power varied from several weeks to several months, depending on who was talking.

They also dismissed those who had hoped the transfer of power would provoke an uprising against communist rule on the island Castro has dominated since his 1959 revolution.

Castro has yet to be seen in person or photographed since handing over power provisionally to Raul, 75, who has also made no public appearance or statement.

Eyes were now turning toward Fidel Castro’s 80th birthday on Sunday to see what might happen. Planned island-wide festivities have been postponed to December.

International backers rallied
The Cuban government, bristling at calls from the Bush administration for a transition to multi-party democracy, has rallied its international backers.

The Communist Party newspaper Granma published a letter signed by 400 foreign intellectuals and supporters, including MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky, South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and actor Danny Glover, calling on the United States not to interfere in Cuba.

“We should at all cost stop a new aggression,” it said.

The authorities meanwhile placed coastal residents on a higher alert to watch for any sign of an invasion force.

“They are doing watches at night in the barrios. We are alert,” said a student said in the coastal village of Isabela de Sagua, nearly 200 miles east of Havana.

Washington tried for decades to oust Castro but U.S. officials say it has no plans for a military intervention.