Posted December 29 2006, 9:40 AM EST
MIAMI -- Marcos Domenech was eating at a bustling cafe in this city's
Little Havana neighborhood recently when he spotted a friend he hadn't
seen since he left Cuba four years ago. The two reminisced about the
island, acquaintances and family.
Then inevitably talk turned to the health of ailing Cuban leader Fidel
Since Castro handed off power to his brother Raul in July to recover
from intestinal surgery, his public absence has given Cubans living in
the U.S. more reason to hope for political change there than they've had
Yet after 47 years of Castro's rule, they are wary of making New Year's
predictions and many express an almost Zen attitude about the country's
``Of course we are counting the days, but change will come little by
little, in time,'' said Domenech, a 29-year-old salsa singer in Miami
Beach. ``I doubt anything will happen before the end of the year.''
Cuban immigrants here frequently watch the Spanish-language news each
night, some turning to Cuban television via satellite, for any new clues
to Castro's mysterious illness. Cuban officials have dubbed it a state
A Spanish surgeon recently flew to the island to treat Castro and later
said he does not have cancer and is making a slow but steady recovery.
Most Cubans here saw the visit as well-choreographed spin control. Yet
while many think political change in Cuba has begun, few believe that
even Castro's death will lead to an overnight about face in the
government or more than four decades of tempestuous U.S.-Cuba relations.
``Raul has a little more open vision. He's less capricious than Fidel,''
said Domenech's cousin Hanoi Mena, who arrived in South Florida four
months ago on a homemade boat. ``But we have to wait. We have to be
Writer and Cuban exile Norberto Fuentes, once a confidant of Raul
Castro, believes the most significant moment in Cuban politics has
already occurred with the handoff of power. But he warned that after
Castro's death, the world should not expect mass chaos there, as Cuba's
leaders ``have long planned for this moment.''
Even the most dogged anti-Castro Cubans who fled the island shortly
after the revolution now say that change there is no longer tied to
``If Fidel dies or doesn't die, it's immaterial. It's the end of the
system that we are looking for,'' said business leader Remedios Diaz
Oliver, a board member of the hardline Cuban Liberty Council.
Carmen Rodriguez, 53, who came to the U.S. a decade ago and recently
visited relatives in Matanzas, Cuba, is also only cautiously optimistic.
``Yes things may ease a bit,'' she said, ``but you've still got the same
people surrounding Raul, the same people in power.''
And even though people in Miami talk frequently about Castro's health
and the changes to come, ``in Cuba, life continues the same and nobody
talks about it,'' she said.