Ailing Castro Gives Temporary Power to Brother
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: July 31, 2006
HAVANA (AP) -- Fidel Castro, who took control of Cuba in 1959, rebuffed repeated U.S. attempts to oust him and survived communism's demise almost everywhere else, temporarily relinquished his presidential powers to his brother Raul on Monday night because of surgery.
The Cuban leader said he had suffered gastrointestinal bleeding, apparently due to stress from recent public appearances in Argentina and Cuba, according to a letter read live on television by his secretary, Carlos Valenciaga.
''The operation obligates me to undertake several weeks of rest,'' said the letter. Extreme stress ''had provoked in me a sharp intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding that obligated me to undergo a complicated surgical procedure.''
Castro said he was temporarily relinquishing the presidency to his younger brother and successor Raul, the defense minister, but said the move was of ''a provisional character.'' There was no immediate appearance or statement by Raul Castro.
It was the first time in his decades-long tenure that Castro has given up power, though he has been sidelined briefly in the recent past with occasional health problems.
The elder Castro asked that celebrations scheduled for his 80th birthday on Aug. 13 be postponed until Dec. 2, the 50th anniversary of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces.
Castro said he would also temporarily delegate his duties as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba to Raul, who turned 75 in June and who has been taking on a more public profile in recent weeks.
In power since the triumph of the Cuban revolution on Jan. 1, 1959, Castro has been the world's longest-ruling head of government. Only Britain's Queen Elizabeth, crowned in 1952, has been head of state longer.
The ''maximum leader's'' ironclad rule has ensured Cuba remains among the world's five remaining communist countries. The others are all in Asia: China, Vietnam, Laos and North Korea.
In Old Havana, waiters at a popular cafe were momentarily stunned as they watched the news. But they quickly got back to work and put on brave faces.
''He'll get better, without a doubt,'' said Agustin Lopez, 40. ''There are really good doctors here, and he's extremely strong.
Everything which happened in Iraq was supposed to happen in Cuba. The exiles return and run the country, or not.
posted by Steve @ 1:34:00 AM