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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/journal/2006-12-02/2006-12-02-841409

by Bernard Duraud, special correspondent, Havana

Paying Hommage to Fidel Castro

Translated Monday 4 December 2006, by Patrick Bolland

Cuba: During the whole of the last week, thousands of people celebrated the 80th birthday of the Cuban head of state, unable to participate in the festivities.

The health of Fidel Castro remains the subject of unending speculations, more than four months after his operation. Everybody is commenting on it, as numerous visitors flew into Havana during the week to celebrate the 80th birthday of the Cuban leader, an event organized last Tuesday by the Guyasamin Foundation. The 50th anniversary of the landing of Granma, prelude to the Cuban revolution, is taking place alongside the festivities: with an opening Gala, an international conference on the topic "Memory and the Future: Cuba and Fidel", a concert in Havana and, for the first time in ten years, a military parade, on 2 December.

This celebration was an opportunity to rule out any doubt, both for the Cubans and for the 1,500 guests, that the "lider maximo" was going to reappear. At the time of writing this article (on 1 December), there was nothing new to report. Fidel Castro’s doctors didn’t allow him to attend on Tuesday evening at the launching of the official ceremonies. Fidel wrote in a message: "According to the doctors, I am still not well enough to face this colossal meeting, so I have chosen this way of adressing you".

After assuring everyone that "the American people won’t allow President George W. Bush to complete his mandate", he emphasized the importance of the environment and of the new technologies, then refered to his "great sadness" that he could not "personally thank" each person who had come. But, it was still uncertain yesterday that the Cuban president would not make a public appearance at the military parade on Saturday (2 December).

The interim is being assured by Raoul Castro, and "the transition" is under control - between anxiety and expectation - a strange climate is reigning in Cuba. The death-knoll has not yet rung but hommages to Fidel have the ring of tributes after a person’s death.

Expressions of sympathy and solidarity –and there were many of these – were expressed by visitors coming from Latin America, like those of the Brazilian poet Thiago Di Melo, of the Ecuadorian writer, Jorge Enrique Adoum, of the president of the Mothers of Plaza del Mayo in Buenos Aires, of Hebe de Bonafini and of the Chilean writer Volodia Teitelboim. They came also from Africa, North America and Europe. Among those present were the Italian writer Gianni Mina, the French journalist Ignacio Ramonet (from Le Monde Diplomatique), Gérard Bourgoin (French industrialist) and the actor, Gerard Depardieu. Depardieu came specially to celebrate "freedom and the 80th birthday of Fidel" and because Fidel "represents a grand project, he has survived all the threats and brought joy to the people".

Regardless of whether Fidel returns to power or not, and beyond all the speculations, there are few today who doubt the unity and the cohesion of the Cuban people, who, as Felipe Pérez Roque, Cuba’s foreign minister, pointed out at length, are confronting times of uncertainty.

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