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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Fidel Castro passe provisoirement la main

by Bernard Duraud

Fidel Castro Temporarily Ceases to Lead Cuba

Translated Wednesday 9 August 2006, by Carol Gullidge, Hervé Fuyet

Cuba. Last Monday, Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader, announced that he is suffering from a health problem requiring intestinal surgery. He added that it will force him temporarily to relinquish his leadership to the second-in-command of the Cuban regime, his brother Raul, Minister of Defence: “My health, that has withstood all sorts of hardships until now, has been affected by days and nights of continuous work with very little sleep." In a solemn declaration read on TV by his personal secretary, Carlos Manuel Valenciaga, the Cuban President, who will be eighty years old on August 13 stated that "extreme stress to my health has generated an acute intestinal crisis with significant haemorraghes, forcing me to undergo a complex surgical operation.” The “Leader Maximo” is being forced to take a rest.

“The operation is forcing me to rest for some weeks, away from my responsibilities and duties,” added the Cuban President, who announced he was temporarily delegating to his brother Raul his duties as President of the State Council (government), as chief of the armed forces and as First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP). His responsibilities as principal coordinator, in different ministries (health, education, energy) were given respectively the present ministers. He also indicated that he has confidence in the Cuban people and the political authorities to continue to work as usual in all areas.

The exact nature and gravity of the illness of the Cuban leader have not been officially communicated. One only knows, according to a statement signed by Castro that “all the details of this problem with his health have been investigated by means of Xrays, endoscopy, and filmed materials”. Explaining his condition, the Cuban President refers to “the enormous efforts” generated by his trip to Argentina for the Mercosur summit, from July 22 to July 24, and his annual speech on July 26 at Bayamo in the south-east of Havana.

The Cuban President has asked for the celebration of his eightieth birthday on August 13 to be postponed until December 2, the fiftieth anniversary of his landing in Cuba to overthrow the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship. He also raised some doubts about his participation in the non-aligned summit in Havana from September 11 to September 16, when he was expected to take the presidency of the non-aligned movement, for the second time. Castro was previously President of the non-aligned movement from 1979 to 1982.

As for his age, and his real or supposed state of health, there are numerous rumours about the former victim of so many assassination attempts - as Castro himself pointed out in 2005 to those who claimed he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. This is the first time that Castro has been forced to relinquish power temporarily and to announce it publicly. Some commentators seem in a hurry to proclaim his death. The post-Castro era - a “taboo” topic which has in fact been discussed on numerous occasions, including by Castro himself in Ignacio Ramonet’s book ’Cent heures avec Fidel’ - conjures up many scenarios of so-called “democratic transition” or the end of the “castrist era” and the one-party system.

According to the constitution, Raul Castro, seventy five years old, is the second-in-command in Cuba, and the designated successor of his elder brother. He has always discreetly protected his bother and Cuba since the Cuban Revolution of 1959. Last June, he stated that the CCP will continue to lead Cuba and maintain the socialist orientation of that large Caribbean island after the rule of Castro.

Latin America is worried

In Latin America, leaders close to the “Lider Maximo” are worried by the Cuban leader’s state of health. “I wholeheartedly hope that President Fidel Castro will make a rapid recovery and remain with us forever,” said Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, who is being kept informed by Havana and remains “serene”. The newcomer in the anti-imperialist struggle, Bolivian President Evo Morales, has expressed “the solidarity and wishes of all the Bolivian people for Castro’s prompt recovery."

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