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Close behind Castro, his radical brother

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published August 2, 2006


[AP photo]
Cuban President Fidel Castro, at a mass rally in Argentina on July 21.
[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 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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HAVANA - Cuban Defense Minister Raul Castro is President Fidel Castro's staunchly loyal younger brother and his designated successor. At 75, five years younger than Fidel, Raul is far less charismatic than his brother though far more radical.

As first vice president of the Council of State, Cuba's supreme governing body, Raul is legally designated to assume his brother's role as president of the council in the event of "absence, illness or death."

Three weeks after taking power in January 1959, Castro named Raul his successor, telling supporters: "Behind me are others more radical than I."

He officially designated Raul as his successor at a Communist Party congress in October 1997, saying "Raul is younger than I, more energetic than I. He can count on much more time."

As head of Cuba's armed forces, Raul was deeply involved in Cuba's military involvement in Angola and Ethiopia during the 1970s.

In one rare interview in early 2001, Raul spoke with unusual frankness about his older brother's death and encouraged the United States to make peace with Cuba while Fidel was alive.

"I am among those who believe that it would be in imperialism's interest to try, with our irreconcilable differences, to normalize relations as much as possible during Fidel's life," Raul said in the interview with state television.

Raul, a political hard-liner, belonged to a communist youth group before the revolution. The elder Castro didn't publicly embrace socialism until 1961.

But on the economic front, he showed signs of flexibility. As defense minister, Raul has overseen some of Cuba's most important experiments with limited market-style reforms. He also expressed interest in China's version of free-enterprise socialism during a November 1997 visit.

He is married to Vilma Espin, who fought alongside him. They have four children. The fourth of seven children, he attended Roman Catholic schools and studied administration at the University of Havana.

[Last modified August 2, 2006, 02:04:06]


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