Cubans worry as Castro offers no clues on health

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HAVANA, May 21 (Reuters) Cuban leader Fidel Castro has written a string of editorial columns to reassert himself after surgery forced him to step aside last year but, with no word on his health, some Cubans are now worried about a power vacuum.

Although he has not appeared in public for 10 months, the 16,000 words published by Communist Party newspapers and repeatedly read out on state media in recent weeks have raised speculation that Castro could lead the country again.

His partial return has many wondering whether he or his brother Raul Castro -- who was named interim president when Castro fell sick -- is in charge.

''Fidel is writing articles to show that he is still alive. But Raul is silent and nobody is speaking to the Cuban people,'' said a caretaker watering plants at an apartment building in Havana.

''I love Fidel but it is time he showed up, told Cuba 'Mission Accomplished' and handed power to his aides,'' he said, asking not to be named.

Castro, 80, gave his last speech on July 26, days before emergency bowel surgery forced him to hand over power to Raul, his low-profile brother and defense minister.

Eight articles signed by Castro have appeared since March blasting his ideological nemesis, the US government, for threatening the world's food supply with its biofuels plans, promoting free trade and encouraging defections from Cuba.

But not a word on his illness, which is a closely guarded state secret, nor on whether he plans to resume leadership of Cuba or retire.

''He has not appeared physically, so we don't know how he is,'' said Miriam Leiva, a dissident and former diplomat. ''The articles maintain his apparent presence, but they do not deal with the real issues Cubans are facing.'' ''Cuba needs change and economic revival. The country is in political limbo,'' she said.


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