Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Havana Takes Word Of Castro's Illness Quietly


August 01, 2006

While Miami streets were full of celebrating Cuban-Americans, those Cubans still living on the island took the news of Fidel Castro's illness, and the subsequent transfer of power, with barely a ripple of outward concern.

With Havana's streets calm, an electronic news ticker at the U.S. diplomatic mission provided the only clue that something dramatic had occurred inside Cuba's government: "All Cubans, including those under the dictatorship, can count on our help and support. We respect the wishes of all Cubans."

Waiters at a popular cafe in Old Havana were momentarily stunned by the news, but quickly returned to work.

"He'll get better, without a doubt," said Agustin Lopez, 40. "There are really good doctors here, and he's extremely strong."

But Martha Beatriz Roque, a leading Cuban government opponent in Havana, said she believed Castro must be gravely ill to have stepped aside, even temporarily.

"No one knows if he'll even be alive Dec. 2 when he's supposed to celebrate his birthday," she said in a telephone interview. She said opposition members worried they could be targeted for repression during a government change, especially if authorities fear civil unrest.

White House spokesman Peter Watkins said U.S. authorities were monitoring the situation: "We can't speculate on Castro's health, but we continue to work for the day of Cuba's freedom."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Castro's strongest international ally, was the first foreign leader to react to the news, expressing his distress during a visit to Vietnam. He said he called the Cuban leader's office after hearing the news.

"Waking up this morning and receiving that news, you may see what feeling one would have toward a good friend," Chavez said Tuesday morning. "When there is such an announcement, it's worrisome."

"We wish President Fidel Castro will recover rapidly," Chavez said. "Viva Fidel Castro."

Copyright © 2006 cbs4.com


JG: Martha Beatriz Roque has no cedibility with the Cuban people. She once advocated a U.S. Marines invasion of the island to get rid of Fidel.

Martha: Go back to the United States Interest Section in Havana to recieve your monthly check, or is it El Camajan the one that disburses the funds?

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