Hero to some. Dictator according to others. Now the speculation is on whether it is the end of an era for Cuba as Fidel Castro stands down as leader, albeit temporarily. It is the first time the president has relinquished his power since 1959. In a statement read out on television, it was announced that the 79 year old communist leader needed emergency surgery on his intestines, a condition attributed to extreme stress after he overexerted himself on a trip this month. The operation will force Castro to rest for several weeks.
In the interim he has delegated his posts to Raul Castro, his 75-year-old younger brother and designated successor, number two in Cuba’s political hierarchy. The streets of Havana have been calm since the announcement. Generally there is concern for the president among the two million people living in the Cuban capital, many willing God to save him.
Castro’s health has been an issue since he fainted during a speech in 2001. Three years ago he stumbled during another speech, fracturing a knee and an arm. Since then his pace has slowed greatly. He has postponed his 80th birthday celebrations until December to mark the 50th anniversary of the day he landed in Cuba. Cubans and the rest of the world wait to see whether he will be back in power by then.