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December 18, 2007

Not Coming Back?

Fidel may be permanently surrendering power -- but I doubt it.

Fidel Castro indicated Monday in a statement read on state television that he was willing to hand over the reins of Cuba’s government to a younger generation of leaders. But his statement remained silent on whether he was speaking hypothetically or had a transition plan in mind.

“My basic duty is not to cling to office, nor even more so, to obstruct the rise of people much younger, but to pass on experiences and ideas whose modest value arises from the exceptional era in which I lived,” said the statement attributed to Mr. Castro, who is 81.

The ailing Mr. Castro, acting in a sort of emeritus role, has produced numerous commentaries in the 16 months since he had abdominal surgery and temporarily handed over power to his younger brother, Raúl, who is 76. But none of the statements until now have addressed the important question of Mr. Castro’s future as Cuba’s president, a position he has held for nearly five decades.

The most recent speculation in Havana had been that Mr. Castro might be trying to make a comeback. His health was said to be improving, and on Dec. 2 he was officially nominated as a candidate for the next National Assembly. The assembly meets in March to choose a 31-member Council of State, which will select the next president.

Because only assembly members qualify for the top job, Mr. Castro’s nomination as a candidate seemed to rule out the notion that he was retiring from politics and ceding power to Raúl, the defense minister and constitutionally designated successor.

I suspect, though, that this is just sort of a polite demurral. Castro will not let go of power -- informally, if not formally -- while he still has breath in him. He is just respecting the constitutional niceties, sort of like Saddam Hussein and many other dictators have done.

I still long to see Fidel and Raul hanging by their heels like Mussolini. Then there will be a great dawning of freedom for all Cubans.





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