CUBA SAYS RAUL CASTRO IN FIRM CONTROL
By ANITA SNOW, Associated Press Writer August 4, 2006
HAVANA - The Communist
leadership assured Cubans on Friday that Raul Castro was in firm control as acting president, and the health minister said
Fidel Castro was "recovering satisfactorily" from
The government also issued
its first decree since Fidel temporarily stepped down Monday for the first time in 47 years: The Foreign Ministry condemned
Israel's bombing of the Lebanese village of Qana,
calling it "cowardly, vile and criminal" and urging the world to force an immediate cease-fire.
The statement came as the
government insisted it was operating normally, even though the island's longtime leader has temporarily ceded power to his
younger brother Raul, the defense minister.
Some Cuban exiles, seizing
on the unprecedented transfer of power, called for the U.S.
government to do more to encourage a democratic transition on the island. But Cuba's
government appeared undaunted.
"The unity and strength
of the Revolution is being reinforced," said Granma, the Communist Party newspaper.
"We Cubans are prepared
for the defense ... and Raul is there firmly at the helm of the nation, of the Revolutionary Armed Forces," Granma said.
White House press secretary
Tony Snow rejected as "absurd" any suggestion that the United States
would attack the island.
Health Minister Jose Ramon
Balaguer, a longtime party leader and physician, said Fidel "underwent surgery from which he is recovering satisfactorily."
During a visit to Guatemala, Balaguer said in a radio interview that Cuban officials
had received "messages of support from the most far-flung places of the world" since Fidel fell ill.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Friday wished Castro a speedy recovery. "There
are indications he is doing well and will be able to resume his duties," Annan during a visit to the Dominican Republic.
Neither Castro brother has
appeared publicly since the 75-year-old Raul was given temporary stewardship of Cuba.
Culture Minister Abel Prieto
urged people to be patient.
"We need to wait for Fidel's
next message," he told journalists at a presentation of musician Silvio Rodriguez's latest CD. "And Raul will appear in due
time ... people know who Raul is."
Prieto emphasized that things
were running smoothly in Cuba.
"This is a society that
is functioning, that is working normally," he said. "People are worried, and wanting to know more about the health of Fidel,
but at the same time, they are conducting themselves appropriately."
Rodriguez, one of the island's
most famous singers, said he would give anything to the leader, even "his life."
The Communist Party also
launched a campaign emphasizing Raul's revolutionary roots and loyalty to his older brother, whose 80th birthday is Aug. 13,
and saying the revolution would continue during Fidel's recovery.
Granma recounted Raul's
decision to assume responsibility for the disastrous 1953 attack on a military barracks that launched the Cuban Revolution
after he believed his brother was killed.
When he discovered Fidel
had survived, Raul returned to his role as soldier, according to the article, adding: "This is a story that cannot be ignored
in the face of today's events."
The newspaper rejected President Bush's call for democracy on the island, saying
his statement Thursday ignored that Cuba
is functioning normally. "What uncertainty is the president talking about?" Granma asked.
William Sanchez, an attorney
for the Cuban-American non-profit Democracy Movement, urged Bush to tell Cuba
to set an elections timetable and to let Cuban-Americans go to the island by boat to help with a political transition.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the Cuban people not to flee the
island for Florida because of political uncertainty.
Rice promised the Cuban
people humanitarian assistance when they begin "to chart a new course" after long years of communist rule.
"We encourage the people
of Cuba to work at home for positive change," Rice said, signaling that
the United States would not favor a mass
exodus of the kind that Cubans undertook in 1980 and 1994.
Her remarks to the Cuban
people were aired on the heavily jammed TV Marti and Radio Marti.