The rumors that were flying a while back and the fawning stories in the Cuban media about Fidel Castro's brother may have been a sign that all is not well in dictator-land. It seems that Castro is going in for some major-league surgery and has relinquished control of Cuba to Raul.
HAVANA –temporarily relinquished his presidential powers to his brother Raul on Monday night and told Cubans he underwent surgery.
The Cuban leader said he had suffered gastrointestinal bleeding, apparently due to stress from recent public appearances in Argentina and Cuba, according to the letter read live on television by his secretary, Carlos Valenciaga.
"The operation obligates me to undertake several weeks of rest," the letter read, adding that extreme stress "had provoked in me a sharp intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding that obligated me to undergo a complicated surgical procedure."
Castro said he was temporarily relinquishing the presidency to his younger brother and successor Raul, the defense minister, but said the move was of "a provisional character." There was no immediate appearance or statement by Raul Castro.
The elder Castro asked that celebrations scheduled for his 80th birthday on Aug. 13 be postponed until Dec. 2, the 50th anniversary of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces.
Castro said he would also temporarily relinquish his duties as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba to Raul, who turned 75 in June and who has been taking on a more public profile in recent weeks.
In power since the triumph of the Cuban revolution on Jan. 1, 1959, Castro has been the world's longest-ruling head of government. Only Britain's Queen Elizabeth, crowned in 1952, has been head of state longer.
The "maximum leader's" ironclad rule has ensured Cuba remains among the world's five remaining communist countries. The others are all in Asia: China, Vietnam, Laos and.
Over nearly five decades, hundreds of thousands of Cubans have fled Castro's rule, many of them settling just across the Florida Straits in Miami.
I'm going to go out on a limb here. He's dying. About 47 years too late for a lot of innocent Cubanos, but death is coming for him, and right soon. One hopes he meets all of those he sent to early graves in the afterlife.
One also hopes he fears just that. For every moment he has left.
UPDATE: bRight And Early has a thorough roundup of a lot of sources on this one.
UPDATE: Babalu Blog has all the latest local media reaction – including a warning to local Cubanos not to try to take their boats over to Cuba to try to get their relatives out.