August 7, 2006

Castro said to be recuperating

By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - A week after surgery forced him to put
his brother in charge of the island he has dominated for 47
years, Cuban leader Fidel Castro remained out of sight and out
of power, but was said to be on the road to recovery.

Cuban officials and Latin American allies said the
79-year-old former guerrilla fighter was recuperating from
gastric surgery but faced weeks of convalescence.

Their statements were short on detail and appeared aimed at
ending speculation about whether the long-time U.S. antagonist
was still alive but without raising expectations for a rapid
return to power.

"The news we have is that he continues progressing well. It
will be a number of weeks, but he is going to recover," Cuban
Vice President Carlos Lage said in Sucre, Bolivia, where he had
traveled for the opening of a constitutional assembly.

A mid-level Havana party member told Reuters that Castro
was out of intensive care and "doing as well as can be expected
for his age," but may have to reduce his workload.

One of the world's longest-ruling leaders, Castro is
admired by many in the Third World as a fighter for social
justice. He is also vilified by critics, most notably the
United States and Cuban exiles in Miami, who see him as a
tyrant who has brought Cuba to the verge of economic ruin.

He put brother Raul, 75, in charge of Cuba while he
recovers from the surgery.


In Caracas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a close ally
and economic backer of Cuba, said on Sunday that Castro was
able to converse and leave his bed.

"He's already standing up out of bed, he's talking -- more
than he should, because he talks a lot," Chavez said during a
conversation with Bolivian President Evo Morales broadcast on

Colombia's Marxist rebel group FARC posted a greeting on
its Web site wishing Castro a swift recovery and sending him "a
fraternal socialist and Bolivarian salute of solidarity."

The group, branded terrorists and drug-traffickers by U.S.
and Colombian authorities, has long claimed Castro's communist
revolution as an inspiration for its four-decade battle to
install socialism in Colombia.

The Cuban government has not revealed the exact nature of
Castro's illness on grounds that it is a state secret.

The surgery was announced on July 31 to have been for
internal bleeding caused by overwork and stress. Cuban
officials have denied a report that Fidel has stomach cancer.

Cuba watchers in the United States said that whether
Castro's condition is terminal or not, the transition of his
government has begun.

"If we have a debilitated Fidel and an aging Raul, where
Fidel would die in the near future and Raul will take the
reigns for a few years, enough time will pass for Raul to
prepare the landscape for when he is gone," said Frank Mora, a
Cuba expert at the National War College in Washington.

"However, we would go from a first among equals to all
being equal ... This suggests a power struggle or certainly
some serious political maneuvering among the successors, each
claiming to speak on behalf of the Fidel-Raul legacy."

(Additional reporting by Esteban Israel in Havana, Brian
Ellsworth in Caracas, Gabriela Donoso in Sucre and Jim Loney in