The top American diplomat in Cuba says the end is near for Fidel Castro and his government and that even Castro’s supporters are preparing for a transition to democracy.
U.S. Interests Section Chief James Cason spoke at his official residence where dissidents gathered Friday for a time-capsule ceremony marking International Human Rights Day.
Castro’s government “is on its last legs,” Cason said as dissidents filled the capsule with messages spelling out their dreams for a different kind of Cuba.
“Even regime supporters are discreetly preparing for the inevitable democratic transition” on the communist-run island, the American official said.
Come New Year’s Day, Castro, 78, will have been in power 46 years. Cuba’s communist leaders say the island will retain its current political system for many years to come.
Castro’s designated successor is his younger brother, 73-year-old Defense Minister Raul Castro, who is also No. 2 in Cuba’s ruling Communist Party.
There was no immediate reaction from Castro’s government.
Oswaldo Paya, leader of a pro-democracy petition drive known as the Varela Project, was among about a dozen dissidents assembled for the evening ceremony.
“Would God grant that our children and the Cuban people do not inherit our hates and miseries but rather our faith so that they can construct their own history,” Paya said.
The time capsule - a small black box later buried in Cason’s backyard - included a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, several non-governmental magazines published on the island and a speech by President Bush about Cuba.