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February 19, 2008

More Castro News

Following up on Gabe's early morning post, here's a longer article on what Castro's resignation means. Apparently the answer is somewhere between not much and no one really knows.

The resignation opens the path for Raul Castro's succession to the presidency, and the full autonomy he has lacked in leading a caretaker government. The younger Castro has raised expectations among Cubans for modest economic and other reforms, stating last year that the country requires unspecified "structural changes" and acknowledging that government wages that average about $19 a month do not satisfy basic needs.

As first vice president of Cuba's Council of State, Raul Castro was his brother's constitutionally designated successor and appears to be a shoo-in for the presidential post when the council meets Sunday. More uncertain is who will be chosen as Raul's new successor, although 56-year-old council Vice President Carlos Lage, who is Cuba's de facto prime minister, is a strong possibility.

"Raul is also old," allowed Isabel, a 61-year-old Havana street sweeper, who listened to Castro's message being read on state radio with other fellow workers. "As a Cuban, I am thinking that Carlos Lage, or (Foreign Minister) Felipe Perez Roque, or another younger person with new eyes" could follow the younger Castro brother, she added.

In Florida, reaction among Cuban-Americans seems muted with a lot of people seeing this as inevitable given Castro's drawn out health problems.

The news that Castro would not seek a new term as president and military chief sparked no immediate celebrations in the streets of Little Havana, the community west of downtown Miami that is home to many of the city's 650,000-strong exile community.

"It's very good that Fidel resigns. But if Fidel dies, it's better," said Juan Acosta, a Cuban who left the Caribbean island in 1980, as he stopped for a newspaper on Calle Ocho, Little Havana's main street.

I am guessing there are a lot of people in several US government agencies dusting off plans on what the US will do when Castro dies or the regime in Cuba falls. It will be a very happy but challenging time.

UPDATE: It's a trap? That's what former Reagan era State Department official Otto Reich thinks Cubans may see this announcement as.

Update [Ace]: Cuban-American blogger Babulu is usually the best at blogging Cuban news.

More [Ace]: The NYT calls Castro "President" and gushes over his "great social achievements;" AP says that Castro's "detractors" considered him a dictator.


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