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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 August 2007, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Exiles' frustration at Castro status quo
By Emilio San Pedro
BBC Americas Editor

Cuban-Americans celebrate news of Fidel Castro's illness in Miami
Exiles poured onto Miami's streets at the news of Castro's handover

It was the moment the Cuban exile community in Miami, which numbers more than a million, had been awaiting for decades - the news that Fidel Castro had for one reason or another transferred or left power altogether.

The official news a year ago was that Mr Castro had undergone emergency intestinal surgery and was transferring power for the first time since he took over in 1959, but only temporarily, to his brother Raul, his designated successor.

Minutes later, exiles in Miami began pouring into the streets of the city's Little Havana district to celebrate the news which many of them believed signalled the end of Mr Castro's rule.

Most of them - being used to having to extrapolate different meanings from the news that comes out of the island - were certain that the transfer had occurred because Mr Castro had possibly already died.

'Focal point'

Their speculation was fuelled even further by the secrecy with which the Cuban authorities dealt with Mr Castro's illness, which has been designated a state secret.

Cuban President Fidel Castro at a rally (26 July 2006)
A year on, Fidel Castro says he is still involved in state affairs

Soon there were thousands of people gathering or driving by the emblematic late-night Cuban cafe, Versailles, which became the focal point of the celebrations.

Leading political figures of the exile community also took part in the celebrations, echoing the thoughts of people on the streets that the end of the revolution was nigh.

There was a great deal of talk about Raul Castro and whether he would differ or remain the same as his older brother if he were to remain in power, even for a short while.

The celebrations continued for nearly a week, but began to dwindle as the news from Cuba seemed to indicate that Mr Castro had indeed survived his operation and that little had changed either politically or on the streets of the island.

Renewed frustration

There were no signs of popular revolts against the regime as many in Miami had hoped for or predicted.

Nor was there any sign that the carefully crafted plans for a smooth transition of power had suffered any kind of internal revolts within the all-powerful Communist Party.

That initial euphoria in Miami has turned into renewed frustration among exiles as the political change they believed was possibly imminent has failed to materialise.

Dissidents on the island have also not received the support they needed from the international community
Andro Nodarse Leon
Cuban American National Foundation

For Andro Nodarse Leon, of the Cuban American National Foundation, a large part of the blame lies with the United States and the international community.

"A significant opportunity was missed by them to effect real democratic change on the island," says the 30-year-old, who grew up in Cuba but now lives in Miami.

"More pressure should have been put on the communist regime and a greater attempt should have been made by the US, the EU and others to identify people within the communist power structure who want change, but need some kind of incentive before they act," he added.

"Dissidents on the island have also not received the support they needed from the international community," says Mr Nodarse Leon.

This lack of pressure had only helped to solidify "the legitimacy of the Castro brothers and their attempt to push some kind of a monarchical type succession on the Cuban people rather than a real transition of any kind", he said.

"Nevertheless, we're still hopeful that Raul will have a legitimacy issue on his hands, when his elder brother is no longer around to provide moral support as he's been doing from behind the scenes," he says.

This is a clear reference to the fact that most Cuban exiles are banking on political change happening once Fidel Castro has either passed away or been removed from power altogether due to his illness.


However, in the latest instalment of his series of articles for the state-owned newspaper, Granma, the Cuban president said he was recovering and promised he would continue to struggle to help strengthen the Cuban revolution.

He also praised his brother, Raul, and the leadership of the Communist Party for the way they had handled the difficult political situation sparked by his illness last year.

And he lambasted the United States which he described as "the only real and destructive empire in the world".

It would, therefore, appear that a year on from what many analysts described as a seismic shift in Cuban politics, both the Cuban government and its exiled counterparts in Miami remain entrenched in the same diametrically opposed political positions they have occupied for decades.

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