Saturday, September 16, 2006 · Last updated 3:37 p.m. PT
By ANITA SNOW
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
HAVANA -- Acting President Raul Castro is giving Cubans and the world a preview of how he may lead if his brother Fidel does not return to power: efficiently and with little fanfare.
Addressing leaders from developing nations as Cuba hosted the Nonaligned Movement summit, he gave several speeches this week calling for unity against "imperialist" U.S. policies, but with none of Fidel's passionate gestures.
"With this summit, the world has discovered more about who Raul Castro is," said Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque.
Dressed in a dark suit rather than his typical olive green uniform, Raul Castro has been visible at the summit, his first real opportunity to appear as a statesman since his 80-year-old brother fell ill in late July.
And while he seemed a bit stiff on Thursday while presiding over the Group of 15 meeting on the summit sidelines, he soon settled into the businesslike operating style he has long been known for as defense minister.
"Raul must be congratulated" for successfully managing the gathering of more than 100 nations, Panamanian President Martin Torrijos told The Associated Press Saturday. "The way the event has gone shows that he has been on top of things."
Raul, 75, had largely avoided public statements since Fidel temporarily ceded power after undergoing intestinal surgery.
"He appears in public when he considers it necessary, and no more," Perez Roque told reporters Saturday.
But he had to step up with Fidel committed to be president of the Nonaligned Movement - representing two-thirds of the world's nations - for the next three years.
A lifelong military man most comfortable chatting and joking with his officers, he is known for his self-deprecating sense of humor.
"I'm not very young, but I'm very well preserved," he joked Saturday, as Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf thanked the Cuban doctors who helped out after an earthquake in his country last year.
Staying home in his pajamas, Fidel Castro has met with foreign visitors including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Abdelaiziz Bouteflika of Algeria.
In his stead, Raul's face was splashed across the huge screens in Havana's convention center.
Raul is a head shorter than his brother and lacks Fidel's athletic physique and beard and his oratory cannot compete with Fidel's. But he plays the same role.
This week, that meant posing for photographs with U.S. antagonists, including Chavez and presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus.
Reflecting the new emerging collective leadership in Cuba, Raul led Perez Roque and Vice President Carlos Lage Davila in a meeting with Annan to discuss the Nonaligned Movement's role in the United Nations.
Fellow top revolutionaries described Raul's leadership style as "modest and firm," with strong decision-making abilities and "efficient control" according to a tribute recently republished in state media.
Raul also appears to have his older brother's full confidence.
At Fidel's side since the rebel attack that launched the revolution, Raul has been his brother's designated successor since 1959.
This week, he finally gave the world a glimpse of what Cuba under Raul Castro would be like.
"I am thankful for the immense honor that has been given us with your participation," Raul told the gathered heads of state, his eyes fixed on the text of his prepared speech. "We all would have liked that these inaugural words would have pronounced by President Fidel Castro."