Cuba's new parliament could retire Fidel
- From: PL <pl.nospam@xxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2008 22:03:47 GMT
Cuba's new parliament could retire Fidel
Posted on Mon, Jan. 21, 2008
By ANITA SNOW
Associated Press Writer
The new parliament chosen by Cuban voters could ultimately send ailing
81-year-old Fidel Castro into permanent retirement.
As results came in Monday, there was no doubt that voters in Castro's
home district had re-elected him to the National Assembly, where he must
hold a seat to be eligible to stay on as chief of the island's governing
body, the Council of State.
But it was less clear whether the assembly would choose Castro as
council president when it convenes for the first time on Feb. 24, or
whether the bearded revolutionary would step down after nearly 50 years
at Cuba's helm.
Castro provisionally ceded power to his younger brother Raul in July
2006 following emergency intestinal surgeries, but remained head of the
Council of State.
Cuban officials say they support his continuing in that role, but Castro
has hinted at retirement without making his intentions clear.
In December, he wrote that he has no intention of clinging to power or
standing in the way of a new generation of leaders. Last week, he said
he was not well enough to speak to the voters in his district of Santiago.
"I do what I can: I write," he said, sounding frustrated in an essay
published by official news media.
On Sunday, Castro voted as he convalesced at an undisclosed location,
one of more than 8.2 million people casting ballots - more than 95
percent of registered voters, officials said Monday.
They were voting for 614 candidates, all of whom ran unopposed for the
rubber-stamp parliament, and all of whom were elected, according to a
preliminary tally released Monday.
Cuba maintains that its balloting is more democratic than that of other
countries because the candidates are chosen by municipal leaders
nominated at neighborhood gatherings. Critics say the elections do not
provide an opportunity for Cubans to decide how and by whom they will be
Casting his vote in Havana, Raul Castro announced the Feb. 24 opening
session of the new National Assembly, but would not say whether his
brother would stand for the presidency again or retire. He suggested
Cuba is entering "a complex chapter, in which we have to face different
situations and great decisions."
After nearly 18 months away from public view, a decision by Fidel Castro
to retain his presidential post could derail what thus far has been a
seamless transition of duties to Raul, the 76-year-old defense minister.
"The temporary transfer of power would, in effect, be annulled,"
Marifeli Perez-Stable of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think
tank, wrote in December.
"It'd be an embarrassment for Raul Castro and the others that they
couldn't rein in the physically diminished Comandante," Perez-Stable
wrote, using a title commonly used on the island to refer to Castro. "It
would be an affront to ordinary Cubans to have this man - so ill he
hasn't appeared live before them for 17 months - declared their
Cubans appear to have adjusted well to Raul, so much so that they rarely
talk about Fidel anymore, except to occasionally comment on his
Many hope that with a permanent role, Raul could promote a modest
opening in the state-controlled economy, to provide breathing space to
those stifled by rules that allow little opportunity to legally increase
income in a country where government salaries average $17 a month.
"Handicapped and incapable of providing coherent leadership, the end of
his historic reign is imminent," former U.S. intelligence officer Brian
Latell said of Fidel Castro in an essay this month. "It seems all but
certain that, voluntarily or not, he'll vacate the Cuban presidency
early this year."
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