Cubans are using religious expression to express their desires for peace and stability in the wake of President Fidel Castro’s illness and the temporary transfer of power to his brother, Raúl Castro, reports Patricia Grogg of the Interpress Service. Castro stepped down from the presidency on July 31 to recover from an operation for intestinal pain and bleeding. Castro’s illness was classified as a "state-secret," though reports in the newspapers trumpeted his quick and satisfactory recovery.
Recently, pictures and video of a convalescent Fidel being visited bedside by Hugo Chavez were released. Jovial comments made by Chavez that Fidel is made of the tropical hardwood Caguairán accompanied the pictures.
A variety of different religions have experienced a swell of participation as the uncertainty about Casto’s health continued. 20 "Babalawos" or priests of the Afrocuban Ifá religion participated in a ceremony to call to deities for calm and stability after learning of Castro’s illness. On the first Sunday and Monday nights of August, Catholic and Episcopal churches swelled with participants praying for peace.
International opinions as well as those of several Cubans cited by Grogg theorize that, intentional or not, this has been a test run of the systematic transfer of power in Cuba, and "a dress rehearsal for the succession," while Fidel is still alive.
As soon as the news of Castro’s illness was made public, the White House began amplifying their plan for "freeing Cuba." A Washington proposal for a transition from Cuba’s socialist regime, which July 10 was expanded to include a new report from the Commission on Assistance to a Free Cuba, provides for the creation of an $80 million fund to support Cuban civil society over the next two years, accessible only to anti-Castro organizations. However, The U.S. government has ruled out another military intervention in Cuba for the present.
President of the Casa de las Américas cultural institution, Roberto Fernández Retamar along with Belgian sociologist François Houtart, presented an open letter Monday in which "intellectuals from around the world" demand that "the U.S. government respect Cuba’s sovereignty."