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So, what happens now in Cuba?

Who's in charge? Questions and answers as Cuba turns a chapter.

By David Adams, Times Latin America Correspondent
Published February 20, 2008


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Q&A / Fidel Castro 

After the resignation of Fidel Castro, who is in charge in Cuba?

For the moment, it is Raul Castro, Fidel's younger brother and armed forces chief. Raul, 76, took over in July 2006 as acting president after his brother underwent surgery and stepped down temporarily.

Cuba's National Assembly meets Sunday. What is the significance of that?

Cuba's new president is expected to emerge on Sunday when the newly elected National Assembly meets in Havana. The 614 delegates will elect the new president as well as five vice-presidents and a 31-member Council of State, the country's top executive branch of government.

Who will be the new president?

That is really hard to say. Fidel's natural successor is Raul, though Raul doesn't like the political spotlight. Some analysts speculate that the job could go to Vice President Carlos Lage, 56, who represents a new generation of Cuban politicians.

Fidel hinted as much himself in his resignation letter on Tuesday.

"There is also the intermediate generation which learned together with us the basics of the complex and almost unattainable art of organizing and leading a revolution," he wrote.

What, if anything, has changed?

Nothing really, except in a huge, symbolic way. Cubans have grown accustomed to Fidel's reduced role in public life since he removed himself from power in July 2006 after undergoing major surgery. He has made no public appearances, but was occasionally seen in photographs or video.

He was recently re-elected to the National Assembly, though his role there is not likely to be active, given his poor health. At least for the time being, he will remain the head of the Cuban Communist Party.

During his convalescence, he has written regular newspaper essays, which he calls "Reflections." He says he will continue writing these. His opinion will still count for something, but executive decisionmaking will now pass definitively to the new president and Council of State.

What about the restrictions that limit U.S. citizens and Cuban-Americans in traveling to Cuba?

They are unlikely to change, for now. The Bush administration has tightened those restrictions, curtailing cultural exchanges that allowed many Americans to visit Cuba during the Clinton years in the 1990s. President Bush has also cut back visits by Cuban-Americans, allowing them to visit the island only once every three years instead of annually.

How is the news being received in Miami and Havana?

Things are very quiet in both places. In Miami, Cuban exiles have refrained from the kind of celebrations we witnessed in Little Havana in July 2006 when news broke that Fidel was stepping down temporarily due to illness. In Cuba, a mood of expectation had already been building in advance of Sunday's National Assembly meeting.

Information from Cox News Service was used in this report.

[Last modified February 22, 2008, 15:32:41]


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