Wed, Aug 09, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Castro will `never be back in the saddle': US analysts

AFP , MIAMI, FLORIDA

Cuba's ailing communist leader Fidel Castro is unlikely to reassume the presidency he temporarily ceded to his brother Raul, according to US analysts.

"My opinion is he's never going to be able to resume his act," said Brian Latell, a former intelligence officer at the CIA.

"He'll never be back in the saddle. His era is over," Latell said.

Another prominent Cuba expert, Jaime Suchlicki, expressed a similar view, saying that "succession has taken place."

"Fidel Castro is not returning, and if he is returning, it will be in a ceremonial cap," said Suchlicki, director of the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies in Miami.

Cuban authorities insist Castro is recovering and would be back on the job within weeks, or possibly months, though they remain tight-lipped about his precise condition.

The communist leader, who turns 80 on Sunday, said in a July 31 statement he was recovering from surgery for intestinal bleeding and had provisionally ceded the power he held for almost 48 years to his brother and designated successor, who is also Cuba's defense minister.

Neither Castro brother has been seen in public since the July 31 announcement, and US President George W. Bush said on Monday he too was in the dark about the communist leader's condition.

The analysts, speaking on Monday at a round-table in Miami, said the question is now how long Raul Castro, 75, would be able to perform the job he inherited.

"He drinks too much when he is under stress and he's now likely to drink even more," said Latell, who wrote a book called After Fidel: The Inside Story of Castro's Regime and Cuba's Next Leader.

"We may see a succession that lasts a very short time," said Suchlicki, adding: "We have to look at the post-Raul era."

He described Raul Castro as "a Stalinist," who is "as brutal or more brutal than Fidel Castro."

"He is no reformist," said Suchlicki, stressing that Raul Castro was unlikely to introduce any significant economic or political changes, at least for the next year.

He also said the younger Castro would likely reject any possible overtures by Washington.

"He does not want a relation with the United States," Suchlicki said.

But former US State Department official Susan Kaufman Purcell, who heads the University of Miami's Center for Hemispheric Policy, said that once Castro is gone, there will be growing pressure within the US to drop the more than four-decade-old US trade embargo on the Caribbean island nation.

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