Dissidents in Cuba
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December 2007
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Castro says he'll stay behind scenes in Cuba

Castro says he'll stay behind scenes in Cuba
New communists to get the spotlight
Isabel Sanchez, Agence France-Presse
Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2007

HAVANA – Cuba's ailing leader Fidel Castro, 81, has made it abundantly
clear for the first time that he may never return to public life even if
he remains a powerful force behind the scenes.

In a letter read on state television Monday, Mr. Castro confirmed what
many suspected for months, and also threw the spotlight on a rising new
generation of communist leadership without naming interim President Raul

"My basic duty is not to cling to (public) office, much less to block
the rise of younger people, but to pass on experiences and ideas whose
modest value arises from the exceptional era in which I lived," wrote
Fidel Castro, who stepped aside from the presidency "temporarily" 17
months ago after undergoing major intestinal surgery.

Raul Castro, 76, who has served as interim leader since July 31, 2006,
is Cuba's defence chief and No. 2 in the Americas' only one-party
communist state.

For many analysts, Fidel Castro, a thorn in the side of the United
States for more than four decades, has already pulled off a stealth
transition to his brother.

The U.S. never planned for a communist Cuba after Mr. Castro, always
predicting the regime would implode without Fidel.

Now, Washington is confronted with the potential slap in the face of yet
another passing of the communist regime's baton right under its nose.

In his letter, read on the news, Fidel Castro did not name anyone who
might follow Raul Castro. Top regime figures decades younger than the
Castro brothers include Vice-President Carlos Lage and Foreign Minister
Felipe Perez Roque.

Fidel Castro has not been seen since his surgery other than in official
videos on television, but opinion pieces of his on global affairs have
been published in Cuba's newspapers since March.

Questions about his political future arose after he was nominated as a
candidate to the National Assembly earlier this month, making him
officially eligible to resume the presidency should he be elected to the
assembly in January.

From the ranks of the nominees for Cuba's national and provincial
assemblies, 614 lawmakers will be elected in January and they will
choose the Council of State. The council's president serves as head of
Cuba's one-party government.

If Fidel Castro had not been nominated to the assembly, that could have
made it appear likely that Raul Castro — who was also renominated —
would formally take over Cuba's presidency next year.

Now Cuba-watchers say it is possible Fidel Castro might be elected an
assembly deputy, but then choose not to run for re-election to the
Council of State. That could open the way for Raul to ascend possibly
with a new-generation deputy.

Dissident economist Martha Beatriz Roque said she did not expect change.
"If he was not interested in reassuming his job (as president) he would
not have been a candidate," she said.

Moderate Oscar Espinosa said he expected Fidel the editorialist "will
remain as an adviser and symbol of the Revolution."

In Washington, the White House said yesterday that democracy would
"soon" come to Cuba, but was less than clear on Fidel Castro's plans.

"It's an interesting letter. It's hard to make out what he is saying or
what he means, as is not unusual, and so we're just continuing to work
for democracy on the island and we believe that that day will come
soon," said spokeswoman Dana Perino.


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