Cuban foreign minister expects Fidel back at helm by December

Campaign News | Sunday, 24 September 2006

From the International Herald Tribune newspaper

Cuba's foreign minister says he expects Fidel Castro to be fully back at the helm by early December and urged U.S. intelligence chiefs to tear up their post-Castro scenario because his illness demonstrated Cubans' strong support for their government.

Felipe Perez Roque said on Thursday that Castro's illness, which forced him to step aside as president on July 31, turned out to be a dress rehearsal for the time when the leader of Cuba's revolution dies, and the world could see that there were no street protests and the country remained "at ease, but vigilant and watchful."

Asked whether he expected Fidel to be back in power for the postponed celebration of his 80th birthday on Dec. 2, Perez Roque said Fidel's health is improving, "and I have no questions in my mind that we will be able to celebrate his birthday in December as he deserves."

Did he expect Fidel to be back fully or on a lighter work schedule? "I think he will come back fully," Perez Roque said.

"I have no doubts that his recovery is coming along quite well, and that Fidel will be able to fully devote his time to his duties without any impediments whatsoever," the minister said.

But Perez Roque said he expects Fidel's medical team to try "and put things in such a way that there will be no excesses that will harm his health."

He said the Pentagon and CIA strategy-makers believed that when Fidel wasn't leading the government "the Cuban revolution would come crumbling down and our people would take to the streets to ask for the invasion of the Marines and to have a U.S. ruler for Cuba," and to ask for "the Mafia-related elite in Miami to come back."

"What has happened in Cuba over the last couple of weeks .... has left the Pentagon and the CIA strategy-makers without any plans, without any strategy, and without a single idea that is worth mentioning," he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"So I can only imagine that those strategy-makers of President Bush must be reassessing their choices - which does not make them less dangerous and reckless than they are today," Perez Roque said.

Perez Roque said the United States has never been more isolated in Latin America while Cuba is no longer alone "as a beacon of dignity and solidarity," pointing to its close alliances with Venezuela and Bolivia.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has been Fidel's most frequent international visitor during his recovery, said in a speech on Wednesday night that Castro was wearing his olive green fatigues once again and was thinner but recuperating.

Perez Roque touted the success of the recent summit of the Nonaligned Movement in Havana, where 117 countries pledged to work together to defend international law, oppose preemptive military action, and counter U.S. efforts "to impose its designs on the rest" of the world.

Castro's 80th birthday on Aug. 13 came two weeks after he temporarily ceded his powers to his younger brother, Raul, No. 2 in the government. So the government has decided to celebrate it on Dec. 2, the 50th anniversary of the landing of a yacht on Cuba's shores with a young Fidel which Perez Roque said "ushered in the last stage of our struggles for Cuba's independence and democracy."

Perez Roque accused enemies of Fidel and Raul of putting forward the "shameful and narrow-minded idea" that Raul is now in charge because Fidel is his brother.

"Raul has been second after Fidel. His responsibilities have not stemmed from his family link with Fidel. They have stemmed from his life devoted to the revolution, from his personal merits, from ability first as a guerrilla chief, and later on as a party cadre and official from the state and from the government," Perez Roque said.

"When Fidel goes back to fully resume his duties, Raul will continue to be the second man in charge in leading the state, the government and the party," he said.

Perez Roque said Cuba stands ready to establish relations with the United States - as Castro recently offered - in the framework of respect for the country's sovereignty.

"We stand ready to move forward, but we're not begging to do so as a favor, and we can spend another 1,000 years the same way we are right now," he said. "We have proved that you can live perfectly well without depending on the United States.

"Besides that, we know that during the Bush administration, there will be no step by the administration in favor of relations, but that doesn't hurt us that much. We're patient, and we know that time is on our side," Perez Roque said.

Fidel’s improvement confirmed

Raúl says he is getting up and answering the phone

President Fidel Castro is steadily improving in health and has a telephone at his side “that he is using more and more every day,” confirmed First Vice President Raúl Castro.

The statements of the likewise Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) are printed in today’s edition of the Granma newspaper, featuring his speech in the closing session of the 8th Congress of the Civilian Defense Workers Union.

“Don’t think that the comandante is lying in bed. He has a phone at his side and if I said the other day that he was using it, now I am saying that he is using it more and more every day,” he informed delegates to the event.

Raúl congratulated the members of the trade union for FAR and Ministry of the Interior (MININT) civilian workers on the 36th anniversary of the creation of the organization.

Moreover, he acknowledged their decisive contributions, alongside workers from other agencies, to the upgrading and production of combat means for the country’s defense.

On the last day of the Congress, General of the Army Raúl Castro showed interest in the incorporation of women into civilian FAR leadership tasks and praised the fact that they are in the majority among that force’s leading cadres.

On behalf of the trade unionists, the FAR minister received recognition as a founder and inspirer of that workers’ organization.

Pedro Ross, general secretary of the Central Organization of Cuban Workers (CTC), noted that the experiences and discussions at this meeting are in fact an advance session in terms of the upcoming 19th CTC Congress, which starts this Sunday. (PL)

Fidel receives Argentine visitor

Miguel Bonasso seen talking to Fidel on TV

Havana, Sept 13.- President Fidel Castro received Argentinean writer and lawmaker Miguel Bonasso, who is in Cuba as a personal representative of President Nestor Kirchner to the Summit of the Group of 15, scheduled to take place on Thursday.

The announcement was made during the Round Table TV program. Host Randy Alonso said during the meeting the leader of the Cuban Revolution spoke with the Argentinean writer about, among other issues, the release of the second edition of the book "One Hundred Hours with Fidel" written by French journalist Ignacio Ramonet.

The book will be presented to all delegations taking part at the 14th Non-Aligned Summit.

Fidel and Bonasso also spoke about regional issues and about the pace of the free eye-surgery program known as Operación Milagro, thanks to which 400,000 patients, mostly from Latin America and the Caribbean, have been treated.

The program includes modern eye treatment centers set up by Cuba in Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti and Venezuela to treat the patients.

Bonasso, who heads the Natural Resources and Environmental Commission of Argentina's Chamber of Deputies, presented Fidel Castro with a travel bag as a gesture of confidence that Fidel will continue to travel, taking Cuba's voice and message around the world.

Fidel Castro thanked Bonasso for his presence in Cuba and for his firm support for Latin American integration projects. (ACN)

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