Fidel didn't show up for today's Revolution Day festivities in Camaguey this morning. It's definitely a sign that some will see as confirming Fidel's actual death, that is until he appears in the media again.
Fox News/AP reports today that Raul Castro's "provisional government took on further airs of permanence" with the absence of Fidel. Univision/AFP says that this is the "first time in 48 years" that Fidel has missed the Revolution Day festivities.
One source reported that "without Fidel Castro present, the mood [at the festivities] appeared somewhat subdued." But, another source said that "it was hard to find much disappointment that the elder Castro failed to show up." It has been estimated that 100,000 Cubans were in attendance for Raul Castro's speech.
Last month (June 4, 2007) I wrote about how Fidel Castro appeared in new photos and video, and how these events pointed out that Fidel Castro was in fact alive and getting better. I also mentioned Andy Gomez, a Senior Fellow at UM's Instiute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, and called him a "selfish academic." I actually regret that description because "selfish" is not the appropriate word to describe Andy Gomez's confidence in his work. The better word would be arrogant.
On June 4th, Andy Gomez appeared on the local station Telemundo51 for the 11pm news. Given that Fidel Castro had recently appeared with visiting Vietnamese officials and was scheduled to appear in a television interview, Andy Gomez made it very clear that Fidel would appear for today's Revolution Day festivities. To my recollection, he was very confident in his prediction.
This afternoon, Andy Gomez appeared again on Telemundo51 for the 11:30 local news program. His video segment did not mention the embarrassing prediction he made on June 4th, but instead Gomez went back to his old position that the post-Fidel era is "clearly marked" and that Raul Castro must win the hearts of all Cubans on the island or face a collapse.
It seems that many in Miami feel that Fidel Castro will not return to power. A recent Telemundo51 web poll (of more than 600 votes) showed that 87% of viewers thought Fidel Castro would not improve physically to return to power.
This is a sentiment that also seems to be taking hold in Cuba. "[Fidel's] getting older, and in poor health, he should let others continue with the Revolution," says one Cuban. "I am certain Fidel is recovering but there's no problem because we have Raul," says another in Camaguey.
Raul Castro today has (for the third time since last July) suggested that a dialogue begin with the US in a "civilized manner." He also proposed an "olive branch" deal to the future 2008 administration, or face another 50 years of Cuban opposition to US policy towards Cuba.
[Photo by Javier Galeano/AP]