August 18, 2006

Raul Castro says Fidel Castro recovering

By Anthony Boadle

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban leader Fidel Castro is recovering
gradually, acting President Raul Castro said in an interview
published on Friday, his first statements since he took over
from his ailing brother last month.

The younger Castro said he mobilized Cuba's armed forces
and tens of thousands of reservists to face the threat of a
U.S. invasion in the crucial hours after the July 31 handover.

"Absolute tranquillity is reigning in the country," he said
in an interview published in the Communist Party newspaper

Raul Castro, 75, said his brother's improvement has been
"progressive." Fidel Castro's physical and mental strength have
helped his "satisfactory and gradual recovery," the younger
brother said.

Cuba announced on July 31 that Fidel Castro, who turned 80
on August 13, underwent surgery for intestinal bleeding and
delegated the presidency and leadership of the Communist Party
provisionally to his brother Raul, head of the Cuban armed
forces and his designated successor.

Raul Castro said there had been an outpouring of support
for the government. "It has been clear demonstration of the
people's unbeatable unity and revolutionary conscience,
essential pillars of our country."

His appointment sparked speculation that Fidel Castro's
47-year rule on the island just 90 miles from Florida might be
ending. Rumors were fueled when neither Raul nor Fidel Castro
appeared in public until August 13, when Raul appeared on state
television and video images of Fidel were released.

"As a point of fact, I am not used to making frequent
appearances in public, except at times when it is required,"
Raul Castro said in the Granma interview.

He said many of his activities as defense minister were
best kept out of the public light, adding, "Moreover, I have
always been discreet, that is my way, and in passing I will
clarify that I am thinking of continuing in that way."

Castro said he was gratified by the support expressed from
around the world, and expressed scorn for those who had
expected chaos in Cuba, particularly in arch-enemy the United

"We could not rule out the risk of somebody going crazy, or
even crazier, within the U.S. government," he said.

At dawn on August 1, Raul Castro said he raised Cuba's
combat level and mobilized tens of thousands of reservists and
militia members, and informed the country's main fighting units
of the political and military situation.

Raul Castro said he did not want to exaggerate the dangers
of U.S. intervention faced by Cuba.

"So far the attacks have only been rhetorical, with the
exception of the substantial increase in subversive radio and
television broadcasts against Cuba," he said.