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Posted August 13, 2008 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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Jeff Franks | Reuters

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro turned 82 on Wednesday, still a world and national figure even though he has not been seen in public since falling ill two years ago.

After ruling for almost 50 years, Castro follows a special diet for an undisclosed illness that required intestinal surgery and admits he does not have the strength he once had.

But he occasionally surfaces in videos on state-run television. The most recent showed him to be more robust than those aired a few months after his July 2006 operation.

Raul Castro, who replaced his brother provisionally until the National Assembly formally elected him president in February, described Fidel Castro in a July speech as still very active, engaged and at times better informed than he was.

“His day is very busy—exercising, writing, reflecting, thinking. Sometimes it is he who gives me international news that I have not had time to read,” Raul Castro said.

Tellingly, he said he had given his brother a speech beforehand to review and was “overjoyed” when he got word back that Fidel Castro “agreed completely” with its contents.

The brotherly connection has kept Fidel Castro close to power, but debate goes on about how much influence he wields.

Many believe Fidel, trying to keep Cuba close to his socialist vision, has slowed economic reforms that Raul initiated when he took power.

Others say he is no longer much of a factor in governing.

Fidel has downplayed his role in newspaper columns he has taken to writing, but his words appear to still carry weight.

After he wrote columns denouncing the use of food for fuel, a sugar ministry official said last week Cuba had scaled back previously-announced plans to greatly increase ethanol from sugar derivatives.


Cubans, accustomed to Fidel running the show, were not surprised, said 69-year-old retiree Aida Flores.

“Fidel is doing almost the same that he’s always done,” she said. “Raul is not going to stop listening to his advice.”

Cuba expert Frank Mora at the National War College in Washington said Fidel Castro is not “the navigator, but I do believe he has a kind of veto influence over big issues.

“By the same token, Fidel realizes that he is no longer president and has to allow his successors to chart their own course, within certain broad parameters,” he said.

Castro took power in a 1959 revolution against a U.S.-backed dictator and quickly became a leading Cold War figure when he sided his country, located at the doorstep of the United States, with the Soviet Union.

His defiance of the United States and his willingness to inject Cuba in international affairs by war or words gave him and his small country an outsized global presence.

Now in the twilight of his life, said Cuba expert Dan Erikson at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, Castro “has managed to both organize a political succession to his brother Raul and to chaperon the new government.”

“Today, as the prolific ex-president of Cuba, Fidel Castro is both making history and writing it, an enviable feat for any political leader.”

  1. Follow up post #1 added on August 13, 2008 by cubanpete with 127 total posts

    Looking forward to the state funeral.  Raul probably is also.

    For change (cambio) we can believe in.

  2. Follow up post #2 added on August 13, 2008 by abh

    Everything has gone exactly as planned.
    The last sentence in the article says it all.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on August 14, 2008 by Pablo

    Perhaps not everything, but nevertheless Fidel is much more than an average political leader in the 20 century.

  4. Follow up post #4 added on August 18, 2008 by bernie

    Perhaps Fidel Castro will live to see the total collapse of the USA????

    The person with the most birthdays will live the longest ?????

  5. Follow up post #5 added on August 18, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    The USA will never collapse because we have free elections every year.

    Say what you want about the “system” and the money but the fact is people are free here. Free to say whatever they want, free to leave the country, free to vote and openly support anybody they like.

    You can’t do any of that in Cuba (or the former USSR).

    Fidel is carrying the Cuban system. No one can vote against him or go against him, not even Raul.

    So, when Fidel dies, then maybe the people of Cuba will be free.

    Cuba consulting services

  6. Follow up post #6 added on March 17, 2009 by ashley

    hi im ashley and im doing a SA in world culture and our teacher picked one person who is famous that influences today’s culture if u have any comment or sugestion can u send them to me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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