Ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro did not attend the last session of the year of the country's National Assembly on Friday, fanning concerns about his health.
The absence of Fidel spotlighted the looming question about the future of Cuba -- the only communist-ruled country in the Americas. He has only missed the session once in 30 years.
The one-day session on Friday was headed by Fidel Castro's brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro. Fidel has not been seen in public since July 26 and he temporarily handed over power to his brother five days later after undergoing intestinal surgery.
Since its creation in December 1976, the National Assembly of People's Power (ANPP) has been Fidel's venue for laying out in detail the country's direction. His long speeches dominated debates and usually led to unanimous votes backing his views.
The leader of the assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, ended the eight-hour meeting, where Fidel's customary chair sat empty, without transmitting any message from the longtime leader.
In a closing address, Alarcon, Cuba's former representative to the UN and its top official for US affairs, denounced the "historical interest of the United States in destroying the Cuban revolution."
He proposed changing a tradition of naming each year for a major activity -- mainly Fidel's initiative since 1959 -- to assigning it the number of the anniversary it marks of the revolution.
Fidel was consulted on that proposal and was "fully in agreement," a session leader said.
Alarcon said nothing about Fidel, 80, who led Cuba from Jan. 1, 1959, until his handover to Raul.
He also had no revealing comments about the status of Raul, 75, as he presided over the assembly session.
But there was a slight allusion to Fidel when the economy minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez, declared: "Continue drawing up the new course of the fight ... We will be ready to fulfill your orders and to guarantee your work."
Rodriguez announced that Cuba's economy will have grown 12.5 percent in 2006, the fastest pace in Latin America.
The meeting on Friday was the first time the interim president's team of leaders was in full view. The six men Fidel named to aid Raul all are assembly members -- Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, vice presidents Carlos Lage and Esteban Lazo, Health Minister Jose Ramon Balaguer, central bank chief Francisco Soberon and Communist Party organizer Jose Machado Ventura.
Raul Castro strongly suggested during a speech late on Wednesday that the time had come for a changing of the guard.
"Whether we like it or not, we're already coming to the end of our duties," Raul said.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic