Monday, August 13, 2007

Low-key birthday for Fidel Castro

13 August, 2007 - Published 11:41 GMT

Low-key birthday for Fidel Castro

Cuba is set to break with tradition and not hold official celebrations
to mark the birthday of its 81-year-old president, Fidel Castro.

There were fireworks at midnight in the Cuban capital Havana to mark the
occasion but nothing else was planned.

Mr Castro has not been seen in public for over a year after having
emergency surgery and power has been temporarily transferred to his
brother, Raul.

Many observers believe Mr Castro may never return to front-line politics.

For Mr Castro's last birthday there were candle-lit vigils and mass
demonstrations of affection for the convalescing leader.

There have been no pictures of him recuperating for more than two months

State secret

The last ones showed he had put on weight though he was visibly fragile
and had a weak voice.

His current condition and whereabouts remain a state secret.

But the man who has ruled this communist state since he led the
revolution almost half a century ago continues to make his presence felt
through regular newspaper editorials.

Some observers believe Mr Castro has taken on a new role as adviser on
important decisions while his younger brother handles day-to-day government.

It has been a smooth transition but so far there have been few signs of
change. A recent speech by the acting president has raised expectations
that some economic reforms could be on the way.

Now many here suspect that the longer Mr Castro is not seen in public,
the greater the chance that this is how the balance of power will remain.

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