CASTRO: Staying Alive by Mitch E. Perry

08/01/06

In a stunning development, Cuban leader Fidel Castro has temporarily ceded presidential power to brother Raúl Castro due to ''an intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding'' that required ''complicated surgery,'' according to a letter read last night on Cuban television.

That letter – reportadley signed by Castro and announced on state run television, was announced shortly after 9PM last night by his secretary, Carlos Valeciaga, who attributed his ailment to stress from recent public appearances in Argentina and Spain.

In the letter, Castro wrote that those trips involved ``days and nights of continuous work, barely able to sleep, my health, which has withstood all trials, was subjected to extreme stress and broke down.�

But doctors questioned by the Miami Herald today questioned that stress could have caused the bleeding.

In any event, the news was met with unbridled joy in streets of Little Havana in Miami, where anti-Castro sentiment runs high.(roll tape#1o.q.�horns�)

On Capitol Hill, Florida Republican Senator and Cuban immigrant Mel Martinez was enthusiastic about the possibility of Fidel Castro’s demise (roll tape#2 o.q.�seen occur�)

There has been extensive speculation that Castro has already died, and that the announcement of his illness is simply a stalling tactic designed to allow Raul Castro gets settled in ….Senator Martinez may be one who goes along with that thinking (roll tape#2 o.q.�short term�)

And Martinez, the first Cuban immigrant to become a US Senator, says the U-S is ready to make sure people don't lose their lives going to or from Cuba.(roll tape#3 o.q.�should not take place�)

In fact, Governor Jeb Bush says he's talked with federal officials about the national plan to restrict some movement from Cuba to the U-S.(roll tape#4 o.q.�can lose their lives�)

Simon Canasi is an executive with Merrill Lynch…He was 5 years old when his parents took him and left Cuba for Tampa. He believes that nothing will change with Raul Castro in power – and that there will no storming of the gates (roll tape#5 o.q.�will be worse than Fidel�)

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The news comes just 3 weeks after the Bush Administration released a 95 page report on what the administration would do to usher democracy in Cuba after Castro’s death or incapacitation.

The report by the multi-agency Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba pledges to help a transition government with humanitarian aide and organizing free and fair elections, and earmarks $80 million dollars in assistance for Cuba’s opposition – but U.S. law says a transition government canNOT include Fidel or Raul Castro.

Maura Barrios is Project Director for the West Tampa History Project(roll tape# 6 “this commission�)

The 75 year old Raul Castro has also suffered from health problems. He has been reported to have been treated for prostate cancer, liver disease and diverticulitis, a painful condition of the digestive tract. The Miami Herald reports that a former aide to Raul said he had been a heavy smoker and drinker.

But he has apparently been taking on more power in recent months. Cuban exile Simon Canasi, says he might have hopes for a different type of government if Castro had named Ricardo Alarcon, the President of Cuba’s National Assembly (roll tape#7 o.q.�see more dialogue�)

As the future remains cloudy, former USF Professor and West Tampa activist Maura Barrios simply says (roll tape#8 o.q.�that’s all I can say�)

Cuban officials aren't saying anything more today about the condition of Fidel Castro..He is just 2 weeks shy of his 80th birthday.

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