Life without Castro
A year later, Cubans are still getting used to the diminished role
played by their leader
By Anita Snow
HAVANA -- When Fidel Castro last appeared in public one year ago, he
enthusiastically led about 100,000 Communist Party faithful in
celebrating the audacious attack on an army barracks that launched his
These days, the convalescing 80-year-old seems to be in vigilant
He tracks government affairs and writes essays from an undisclosed
location, apparently in no rush to resume the hectic lifestyle he blamed
for his ailment.
With island life largely unaltered under a caretaker government led by
his younger brother Raul, there seems little reason for Fidel to put on
his olive green uniform again and rail against the American "empire."
That frustrates ardent supporters, as well as his antagonists in
Washington and Miami, who had hoped for rapid change in Cuba.
"There were a lot of expectations for change," said Cuba analyst Phil
Peters of the pro-democracy Lexington Institute think tank. "But in
Cuba, there have been no signs of any tensions inside the system, no
unrest on the streets, no changes in politics or the economy."
Dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua said, "It has been a year of the greatest
political calm" since Fidel Castro stepped aside July 31, 2006. But the
country's future remains clouded as long as the Castro brothers' future
roles remain undefined.
"We are waiting for the definitive transfer of power to Raul Castro so
his actions can be measured," said Cuesta Morua, who like many Cubans
thinks the younger brother is more likely to undertake modest reforms in
the centralized economy.
In the past, Raul Castro had expressed interest in China's model of a
state-dominated market economy with one-party political control. And he
backed foreign investment and limited private enterprise, which saved
Cuba's economy in the 1990s after the Soviet bloc collapsed.
Senior officials stopped insisting months ago that Fidel Castro will
return to power. But unless he dies or relinquishes total control, no
major changes are expected.
"This year may mark the end of Fidel Castro's domination of Cuba, but
significant, positive political change is unlikely immediately," Thomas
Fingar, the U.S. deputy director of National Intelligence, told the
House of Representatives' Armed Services Committee this month.
"Although Raul Castro has solidified his own position as successor, it
is too soon to tell what policy course he will take once Fidel has left
Loyalists now seem to accept the probability the man they know as
"Comandante en Jefe" might never be seen publicly again. He is believed
to suffer from diverticular disease, which causes inflammation and
bleeding of the colon, and has acknowledged that at least one of his
several surgeries went badly.
Over the past year, Cuban authorities have issued photos and videos that
at first showed him looking gaunt and later more robust. The most recent
images were released in early June.
But Castro has warned not to expect such images frequently.
"I don't have time now for films and photos that require me to
constantly cut my hair, beard and mustache, and get spruced up every
day," Castro grumbled in one of his essays, which are entitled
"Reflections of the Commander in Chief."
Castro also has retained the presidency of Cuba's Council of State, the
nation's executive body. Like other top leaders, he is also a National
Assembly deputy, his only post won through direct elections.
To remain council president, Castro must be re-elected as a deputy and
be voted into the top post by the assembly. The next elections for
deputies are not scheduled but are expected after municipal elections in
October. Castro has not said whether he will run.