Cuba’s government to defend country against US democracy

With neither Fidel nor his younger brother Raul Castro appearing in public, communist officials sought to assure Cubans that the revolution would continue even as President George W. Bush urged islanders to push for democratic change.

William Sanchez, an attorney for the Cuban American National Foundation, urged the president to tell Cuba to set an elections timetable and to let Cuban-Americans go to the island by boat to help with a political transition. U.S. policy halts such "flotillas" before they enter Cuban waters.

But there was no sense on the island that anything was going to change. "The revolution will continue" was the mantra chanted in state media Thursday, three days after Castro, who turns 80 on Aug. 13, temporarily ceded power to his younger brother Raul while recovering from surgery.

State news media lined up Cubans to express confidence both in Fidel Castro's ability to recover quickly and in Raul Castro's competence to govern in the meantime.

A U.S. official said Cubans in contact with the American mission in Havana were also expressing fear and unease as they awaited new developments.

There were no new details on the status of Castro's health, or news about where he was convalescing. The Center for Surgical Medical Investigations, a prestigious hospital that services many top officials in a leafy neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana, was operating normally, with a full parking lot and no visible extra security.

Juanita Castro, who lives in Miami and has been estranged from her brother Fidel since 1963, told The Associated Press on Thursday that despite their political differences she took no joy in his failing health.

Juanita Castro said her brother was released from intensive care Wednesday, but knew nothing more, the AP reports.

Meanwhile, CNN said Thursday it had hired Fidel Castro's estranged daughter, Alina Fernandez, as a network contributor to provide commentary and expertise about Cuba.

Fernandez, who was 3 when Castro took power and had sporadic contact with him, left Cuba disguised as a Spanish tourist in 1993. She moved to Miami, where she is a radio host and the author of "Castro's Daughter: An Exile's Memoir of Cuba." Fidel Castro has made no public appearances since the unexpected announcement of his operation Monday night. But his presence was still felt on the island as many suspected he was still running the show. That the younger Castro has stayed out of the spotlight supported this impression.

In Washington, Bush urged Cubans Thursday to work for democratic change and warned that the United States would watch for Cuban officials who stand in the way.

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