Cuban Catholics hope for smooth transition

As the ill Fidel Castro hands over power to his long time deputy and brother, Raul Castro, the editor of a Cuban Catholic journal has expressed hopes for cautious reforms, perhaps even with the help of Florida-based exiles.

"It would be a catastrophe if the successors did not manage to clear up the mess after 47 years of economic mismanagement," Dagoberto Valdez, chief editor of the critical Catholic magazine Vitral, told Playfuls.com.

Valdez who also leads a centre for civic education under the auspices of the Bishop of Pinar del Rio, in Western Cuba, has been a long time critic of the Cuban regime. However, he has previously been quoted as saying: "We don't say we're undermining socialism. We say we're preparing people for living in a more democratic society."

Early this week, Castro stunned Cubans when he announced that he was temporarily relinquishing his leadership powers to his brother Raul after undergoing surgery to halt intestinal bleeding, CTA News said.

"Fidel Castro's health has been in bad shape for a while," Cuban affairs analyst Professor John Kirk, of Dalhousie University in Halifax said.

"He's a 79-year-old person who drives himself mercilessly and his body is giving warning signals it's time to slow down."

Although his 75-year-old brother Raul has long been his designated successor, many believe Cuba's Communist Revolution will not last much longer than Fidel.

Talk of Castro's mortality was taboo until 23 June 2001, when he fainted during a speech in the sun.

"Raul is more pragmatic than his brother but definitely far less charismatic," Cuban affairs analyst Professor John Kirk said.

Yet, in one rare interview in early 2001, Raul spoke with unusual frankness about his older brother's eventual death and encouraged the US to make peace with Cuba while Fidel was still alive.

"I am among those who believe that it would be in imperialism's interest to try, with our irreconcilable differences, to normalise relations as much as possible during Fidel's life,'' Raul said in the interview with state television.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that Fidel Castro's estranged sister has hit out at the celebrations that have been taking place in Miami following news of the Cuban leader's poor health.

Pictured: Fidel Castro with Cardinal Jaime Ortega, 1998. Source: vitral.org.

Cubans Consider Life Without Historical Leader Castro (Playfuls.com, 2/8/06)
Fidel Castro has long history as a survivor (CTC.ca, 3/8/06)
Castro sister hits out at exiles (BBC News, 3/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholics Hope for Change in Cuba (Cubanet)



4 Aug 2006