Dissidents within Cuba view Castro's exit with "caution"

Other News Materials 19 February 2008 23:32 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- Some of the best-known figures in Cuba's internal dissident movement expressed caution about Fidel Castro's decision to step down from the formal Cuban leadership, noting that this does not necessarily mean he will relinquish power after almost half-a- century.

"(Castro) withdraws from the chance of being appointed president again, but he has said nothing about no longer being first secretary of the Communist Party," opposition leader Martha Beatriz Roque told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Roque, of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society (APSC), stressed that according to the Cuban Constitution "the superior force of the state and the people" is the Cuban Communist Party.

The dissident leader said Castro's decision is a "formality," and he will "remain the hand that rocks the cradle."

"He is still staying at the top," she said.

Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz, spokesman for the illegal but tolerated Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), appeared to agree.

In his opinion, Castro's latest move is not "spectacular."

"Castro is not relinquishing the post of president of the single party, which according to the Constitution is above the state, the government and society," Sanchez Santa Cruz noted.

"If he remains in control of the party, he remains above everything and everyone: he would mimic China in the last times of Mao (Zedong), I do not think it is a new formula," the dissident said.

Sanchez Santa Cruz expressed doubts that Castro plans to give up power completely.

Vladimiro Roca, president of the Cuban Social Democratic Party, said he viewed the news with "great caution."

"The fact that he gives up some posts does not mean he is giving up power," the son of a hero of the Cuban revolution told dpa.

The three leaders of the Cuban dissident movement - whom Cuban authorities describe as "counter-revolutionary" and "mercenary" - all underplayed the importance of the National Assembly's election of a new head of state on Sunday.

"We could have certain changes in terms of formal, not real, power, in the spirit of (the novel) Il Gattopardo - changes for everything to stay the same," Sanchez Santa Cruz said.

Roca noted that people will have to wait before drawing conclusions.

"We have to see who are the chosen ones . Raul is the one with the real strength, with the Army. If they choose another one, he will just be the bow of the ship's hull," he noted.