By FRANCES ROBLES AND MARTIN MERZER | Miami Herald
Cuban leader Fidel Castro has temporarily ceded his presidential power to brother Raul Castro due to illness, according to Cuban national television.
The unprecedented announcement came in a communique read over state television. It said that Fidel Castro would be undergoing surgery.
The precise nature of that surgery was not immediately known, but the announcement said that he suffered from gastrointestinal bleeding. The statement read by Carlos Valenciaga, Castro’s secretary, attributed the ailment to stress from recent public appearances in Cuba and Argentina.
Fidel Castro is 79; his brother, the defense minister, is 75 and has been taking on a more public role in recent months.
It is the first time in 47 years that Fidel Castro ceded the power that he snared as a rebel and clung to through decades of controversy and, many would say, brutal repression. Cuban law stipulates that his brother would take over as president upon his death.
‘‘There is no doubt the people and the revolution will struggle until the last drop of blood,’’ the news presenter read.
Reading between the lines, Castro’s medical situation appeared serious.
Valenciaga said Castro delegated various functions to high-level Communist Party officials. He also postponed an upcoming international conference.
In addition, celebrations scheduled for Castro’s 80th birthday on Aug. 13 will be postponed until Dec. 2, the 50th anniversary of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces, the announcement said.