Castro Surgery Puts Brother in Control of Cuba For the first time since 1959, Fidel Castro is not in control of the Cuban government. Raul Castro has temporarily taken control after an announcement Monday night that Fidel Castro was undergoing surgery. Don Gonyea talks to Gary Marx, a reporter in Havana for The Chicago Tribune.
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Castro Surgery Puts Brother in Control of Cuba

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Castro Surgery Puts Brother in Control of Cuba

Castro Surgery Puts Brother in Control of Cuba

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DON GONYEA, host:

And I'm Don Gonyea.

In Cuba, Fidel Castro has temporarily handed power over to his brother, Raul, following surgery for internal bleeding. Castro's secretary announced the news in a live television broadcast Monday night. He read a letter from the nearly-80-year-old Cuban leader, attributing the surgery to stress from recent public appearances. It's the first time, since seizing power nearly five decades ago, that Castro has given up power.

Joining us now to talk about the situation is Gary Marx, the Havana bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune. Gary, good morning.

Mr. GARY MARX (Havana Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune): How are you, Don?

GONYEA: Good, good. Listen, the statement said Castro had suffered from internal bleeding. What more can you tell us about his health at this point?

MARX: I mean, to be honest with you, nobody really knows what his health is like. I mean, we only have what's in the statement. The statement, really, is just a letter from Fidel to the Cuban people. And we don't have any sort of documents or any sort of - any comment by his doctors or anything like that. So it appears to be very serious. But again, we've got no other information other than what was read last night on the television.

GONYEA: I guess, a very basic question here: do we know for sure that he's still alive?

MARX: I mean, actually, we don't. And that's something - what people here are waiting to see. First off is, you know, is Fidel going to make an appearance? It sure sounds like, from the statement, that he's incapacitated and will probably not be seen in public. And then the second thing, of course, is when is Raul Castro, his designated successor, is going to appear and what is he going to say?

GONYEA: This statement, it was brief?

MARX: It was brief. It only was about five minutes long. And again, we were all watching the Cuban television news, the normal news. They just said that the comandante was going to make an announcement after the newscast at 9:15. And at 9:15, his aide-decamp sort of appeared, and we were - we were obviously stunned by it because he appeared in public last Wednesday and gave two very lengthy speeches and looked - appeared to be fine.

GONYEA: Well, we did just see him, then, last week. Was this news a real surprise to Cubans, and how are they reacting to it?

MARX: Don, I think everybody was really surprised. And I think it's too early to say, honestly, what the reaction was. I mean, I went out late last night and talked to people, but they're just - I mean, it's really hard for them to absorb exactly what's happening, and like us, to determine how serious this is. I think the important thing is how it's going to play out over the next two or three days, and whether or not, if Fidel is capacitated - decapacitated - will they rally around Raul Castro? That seems to be the big question.

GONYEA: And, again, we're waiting for our first glimpse of Raul Castro since this announcement? We haven't heard anything from him at this point?

MARX: That's correct. He did not appear last night on television, and he issued no statement. Again - and I checked the Web site of the Communist Party Daily this morning. It's just, essentially, a reprint of the statement made last night by Fidel.

GONYEA: Gary Marx is the Havana bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune. Gary, thanks for joining us.

MARX: Thanks, Don.

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