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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 February 2008, 02:50 GMT
Fidel foe muses on Cuba's future
The community of Cuban exiles in Miami, Florida is watching events in Cuba keenly following Fidel Castro's decision not to seek re-election.

The BBC's Americas editor, Warren Bull, spoke to a key exile and veteran anti-Castro activist, Alfredo Duran, to find out his hopes and fears for the island now its most prominent figurehead has stepped out of the spotlight.


The news that Fidel Castro would step down came as little surprise to the Cuban American community.

Miami Cuban carries anti-Castro poster on Tuesday
Fidel Castro is loathed by the exile community in Miami

In December, Mr Castro had hinted at a handover, and in the past few days, Cuba's leader of nearly 50 years had said he was preparing an important announcement.

For Alfredo Duran, a veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion - the failed attempt in 1961 by Cuban exiles to storm the island and overthrow Mr Castro - the nature of that post-Fidel Cuba will become clearer on Sunday.

That is when the government's Central Committee is meeting - and one clue to the new character of the leadership will be whether Fidel Castro retains a prominent position.

The message that the United States should send to Cuba is that Cubans can resolve their own problem
Alfredo Duran

But Mr Duran says it will not be the only sign of whether Raul Castro, Fidel's brother, is committed to change.

He says whether certain reforms are adopted is key.

They include, he says, eliminating the internal visa, allowing Cubans to travel, creating a single monetary unit, and simply "allowing Cubans to have a more open discussion on the issues that affect... their lives".

Youthful leadership

"If we don't see any of those changes, then we are going to see a more protracted transition towards democracy," he told the BBC.

Former Cuban Vice-President Jose Ramon Fernandez meets Alfredo Duran in Havana in 2001
Mr Duran, right, met old foes from the Bay of Pigs days 40 years later

Mr Duran says the relative youth of Cuba's leadership committee - four-fifths of whom are under 55 - means it is likely to bring transition to the country sooner rather than later.

Mr Duran is a leader of the Cuban Committee for Democracy, which promotes dialogue with the Cuban government.

He had a strong message for the US government about any thoughts of engagement.

Patient game

"They shouldn't be doing anything," he said.

"They should not be involved at all.

Graffiti in Havana, Cuba
Fidel remains the emblem of the Cuban revolution

"I don't think the United States would appreciate very much if any other country told them how to hold the coming elections in November, and who should be their president.

"So therefore, I think that the message that the United States should send to Cuba is that Cubans can resolve their own problem - and if they want to help, they [should] help make sure that it is a peaceful transition that the Cubans themselves evolve into."

And Mr Duran says the Cuban exile community should also continue its patient game of influencing events mainly from the sidelines.

This is a position that other exile groups may disagree with - and a sign, perhaps, that not all Cuban power struggles will be resolved this week.

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