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Old Castro classmate discusses Cuba's future

A local deli owner says the transfer of power to Fidel's brother means "salvation" for his country.

By Mallory Simon
Published August 2, 2006

[AP photo]
Cuban President Fidel Castro, at a mass rally in Argentina on July 21.
[Times photo: Zach Boyden-Holmes]
Capt. Alan Weinstein, left, and Lt. Frank Lanton, right, both of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, talk to Juan DeSosa at his deli. Juan was one of the CIA-trained Cubans who participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Times audio: Listen to Juan Black share his thoughts on the changes in Cuba
[Times photo: Willie J. Allen Jr.]
Enrique Cal, 75, enjoys a game of dominoes with other Cuban-Americans at the Domino Club in Miami's Little Havana on Tuesday morning.
Times video: Cuban exiles in Miami react to news about Castro
[Times photo: Daniel Wallace]
Drialys Munoc, 29, left, and Carlos Cuellar, 35, celebrate with Cuban flags Tuesday outside a restaurant in the Little Havana area of Miami. “We think Fidel Castro is dead,” Munoc said. “We have been waiting so long.”
[Times photo: Joseph Garnett Jr.]
Guillermo Portieles, 43, says he went to jail in Cuba for painting Fidel Castro as Adolf Hitler. He moved to Tampa 16 years ago.

[Times photo: Daniel Wallace]
Revelers gather Tuesday at the Versailles Cuban restaurant in the Little Havana section of Miami. Public safety agencies in South Florida said they did not change schedules or patrols after news of Fidel Castro’s surgery broke.

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NEW PORT RICHEY - A veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion said the exchange of power between Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, regardless of its length, marks the beginning of the end of Cuban suffering.

Castro temporarily turned power over to his brother Monday night while he undergoes intestinal surgery. The dictator's absence marks a pivotal moment in Cuba's history, said Juan DeSosa, who went to school in Cuba with Castro.

DeSosa portrayed Fidel and Raul Castro in two extremely different lights: Fidel, a genius who turned into a monster, and Raul, the brother in the shadows without the brains, who did the dirty work.

The brothers, DeSosa says, have one major difference: "Raul? He's just not Fidel."

"He doesn't have his brother's intelligence," said DeSosa, who now runs a popular Cuban deli in New Port Richey. "And Raul is not taking power because the country wants him to, but because his brother is giving it to him. That is a big difference."

The major problem, DeSosa believes, is that members of Raul Castro's own party, army and town do not stand solidly behind him.

If sole power was turned over to Raul Castro, DeSosa believes citizens would revolt, resulting in a free and democratic Cuba.

"This marks the salvation of my country," he said.

Although DeSosa now compares Fidel Castro to Hitler, there was a time when the two were friends who ate breakfast together.

They met at a Jesuit-run school, where Castro was the boy who never studied but always aced his exams, DeSosa said.

After graduation, DeSosa hired Castro as his lawyer and offered him space in his office. It was out of that office where Castro began his first revolt, though unsuccessful, against Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista.

From there, DeSosa said, Fidel Castro slowly changed from the boy he knew into a terrible monster.

"Fidel wanted to be a part of history and he would do anything to get there," DeSosa said. "Anything. That's why he is so dangerous."

Inside Castro's home, DeSosa said, he even saw the leader slap revolutionary Che Guevara in the face before saying, "Remember, I am the boss here."

Fidel Castro became so hated by his own people that DeSosa agreed to unseat his ex-classmate by participating the Bay of Pigs invasion.

DeSosa felt he had a duty to take away Castro's power. Now, Castro has ceded that power - albeit temporarily - on his own. But DeSosa said Raul Castro's leadership cannot hold up to his brother's stronghold.

"It's like asking how you succeed Hitler," he said.

[Last modified August 1, 2006, 22:59:12]

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