Raúl Castro still under Fidel’s shadow
BY WILFREDO CANCIO ISLA AND FRANCES ROBLES | Miami Herald
Raúl Castro has lived much of his life just a few steps behind older brother Fidel.
He followed Fidel in the mountain battles against the Batista dictatorship in the 1950s, and for nearly five decades since has been No. 2 in the Cuban Communist Party and in the Cuban government.
But as Raúl Castro marks his first year today out in front of his ailing brother, his reputation as a supremely efficient and organized taskmaster who shuns Fidel’s bombastic style of rule appears to be serving him well as he faces a communist nation mired in myriad difficulties.
While cutting back on the long speeches and political rallies, Castro, 76, has launched a rash of new projects and ideas to improve the troubled economy. Above all, he has been credited with keeping Cuba politically stable since Fidel took ill.
Yet even now, he appears to have been unable to entirely shake his image as Cuba’s ‘‘second banana.’’ His talks on the need for economic reforms seemed to lose some steam around March, after Fidel rebounded and began writing articles interpreted as putting limits on reforms.
‘‘The list of what didn’t happen in Cuba in the last year is much longer than what happened,’’ said Cuba’s former U.N. ambassador, Alcibiades Hidalgo, who also served as a senior personal aide to Castro and defected in 2002. ``To describe this year . . . I’d use this phrase: `Fidel Castro, better; Cuba, the same.’
‘Or this one: `Fidel Castro let go of the helm, but he remains the ship’s anchor.’ ‘’
Fidel ‘‘temporarily’’ surrendered his official duties to his brother on July 31, saying intestinal surgery made him unable to work. While his health appears to have improved, there is no sign he will ever again exercise the extraordinary power he once wielded. For the first time in 48 years, last week—two weeks before his 81st birthday—he missed Cuba’s annual July 26 revolutionary celebration.
‘‘The past 12 months have been a remarkable example of our people’s maturity, firmness in principles, unity, trust in Fidel and the party and particularly in themselves,’’ Raúl Castro said at the celebration. ``Adjustments and postponements have been necessary, and we do not rule out that more will be made in the future.’‘