Castro’s message doesn’t herald early return, dissidents say


Havana : There is no indication that the ailing Fidel Castro is returning to power, members of Cuba's internal opposition say.

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They said the most recent article by Castro, in which he provides details about his convalescence but does not refer to the country's domestic situation, offers no sign that he is on his way back.

Nearly 10 months after delegating power to younger brother Raul Castro, the Cuban leader ended his silence about his illness Wednesday night to explain that he has undergone several operations and has been "gradually improving," the Spanish news agency EFE said.

According to Elizardo Sanchez, who heads the outlawed Cuban Human Rights Commission, the elements that Castro refers to in the message "are nothing new (and) have been present over the last 10 months of strange paralysis that Cuba has endured".

He said that Cuba was experiencing an "anomalous situation" in which "Castro doesn't cede (the reins of government), nor does anyone dare take them from him; it's a strange situation of paralysis, of lack of mobility and a country can't go on like that".

Miriam Leiva of Ladies in White, a group comprising relatives of political prisoners, said that despite the signs that the president was recovering, "it seems he's not in condition to resume his work as normal and that suggests the possibility he'll no longer carry out the functions of government".

According to Oscar Espinosa, a former political prisoner, the most significant thing is that "the people of Cuba have been unaware" of the evolution of Castro's illness due to lack of information.

"It's truly worrying that this has happened," said Espinosa, who added that it was regrettable that Castro had made no mention of Cuba's reality in the series of commentaries he has been writing since March.

"It's a bit contradictory that he's talking about global issues when there are important matters in Cuba that require respectful, responsible and democratic debate," he said.

Vladimiro Roca of the Todos Unidos (All United) movement said the article fulfilled the objective of "gradually making it clear to Cubans that they're not going to see him anymore" while underlining that "he remains in charge".

"That's how they're justifying the paralysis that the government has maintained all this time," according to Roca.

The article, according to Marta Beatriz Roque, head of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society, "tries to (subtly suggest) that he (Fidel Castro) is leading the country" but in reality "we don't know who is governing".

"It wasn't just one operation but several. Initially it wasn't successful and that caused my recovery to be prolonged," Castro said in a message to the Cuban people released Wednesday.

"I tell everyone simply that I've been gradually improving and maintain a stable weight of about 80 kilograms (176 pounds)," Castro said in his third commentary of the week.

Castro, who last July 31 "provisionally" transferred power to his brother while recuperating from emergency intestinal surgery, added: "I depended for many months on (intravenous feeding), and I didn't want unpleasant disappointments for our people."

The Cuban leader in this way justified authorities' decision to keep the precise nature of his illness a "state secret".

"Today I receive orally everything I need for my recovery. Now the biggest risks to my health are those associated with old age and (the fact that) I abused my health during the turbulent times in which I happened to live," said Castro, who turns 81 in August.

The Cuban leader said he had been focusing on the series of commentaries on current affairs he started publishing in the official press in March.

"The rest of the time I spend reading, receiving information, talking by phone with numerous colleagues and doing the necessary rehabilitation exercises," said Castro.