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Posted July 29, 2007 by publisher in Cuba Human Rights

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Fidel Castro’s first no-show in 48 years in Cuba’s national holiday has fanned doubts he will ever retake the helm from his brother Raul Castro, who has renewed his offer of talks with the United States.

“It’s over for Fidel Castro as president and commander in chief,” said the “Iron Lady” of dissidents Martha Beatriz Roque, who was jailed in 2003 along with 75 other prominent dissidents, but freed a year later for health reasons.

“He’s there, but that’s it,” she added, referring to Fidel Castro’s appearances in television videos that leave questions about his political future unanswered.

Some analysts said Thursday’s no-show at a politically charged event was a sign Fidel Castro is either unready to make a comeback, or has unofficially bowed out.

However, interim Cuban leader Raul Castro’s recent offer this week of structural reform and dialogue with the United States was interpreted as a reason for ‘hope’ by opposition economist Oscar Espinosa. He said “It is a key speech that could bring on a new era”.

According to Espinosa - one of 75 dissidents jailed in 2003 and who is now out of jail for health reasons - Raul Castro addressed ‘very serious things’ that opposition groups had long been highlighting.

The interim Cuban leader further called for more ‘efficiency, rigour, order and discipline,’ and said the country should make its land ‘produce more’ so as not to depend as much on food imports susceptible to price increases.

“Until now us dissidents used to say them, and we went to jail, like the thing about wages, agriculture. Espinosa said. ‘I am glad he said it himself. We have been denouncing for years the absurdity of importing foodstuffs like sugar. It is as if Germany were to import Mercedes Benz,’

“There are motives and reasons to give expectations and hopes of political changes,” said Manuel Cuesta Morua, of the social democratic group Arco Progresista. “Cuba is entering an era of reform, albeit in accordance with its own (socialist) way.”

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