Tuesday, August 01, 2006

President Fidel Castro Temporarily Relinquishes Presidential Responsibilities

Fidel Castro Temporarily Relinquishes Presidential Responsibilities

Havana, July 31 (ACN) Cuban President Fidel Castro has temporarily relinquished his political, state and government responsibilities to First Vice President Raul Castro, due to health reasons.

President Castro's personal assistant and member of the Council of State, Carlos Manuel Valenciaga, read the letter addressed to the Cuban people on Cuban national TV on Monday evening.

The leader of the Cuban Revolution said that his health had
deteriorated following enormous efforts made during his recent trip to Argentina to participate at the MERCOSUR Summit, the People's Summit and to visit Ernesto Che Guevara's childhood home in Altagracia, plus his participation at two public events on July 26 in Granma and Holguin commemorating the 53rd anniversary of the assault on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Garrisons.

Fidel Castro explained that continuous work with practically no sleep, while subjected to extreme stress, provoked a severe intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding for which he was obliged to undergo complicated surgery. He further noted that during the post-operation period he will need several weeks of rest, away from his responsibilities and tasks.

In his letter, Fidel Castro temporarily relinquishes his duties as First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party Central Committee and Commander in Chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces to Army General and Second Secretary of the Communist Party Raul Castro.

He also temporarily relinquished his post as President of the Cuban Council of State and Ministers to First Vice President Raul Castro and his leading functions in Cuba's national and international health program to Health Minister Jose Ramon Balaguer.

Similarly, Fidel temporarily relinquished his functions in the national and international education program to Ramon Machado Ventura and Esteban Lazo Hernandez, both members of the Political Bureau of Cuba's Communist Party Central Committee.

The Cuban Head of State also turned over his functions in leading the island's energy program and foreign cooperation in that sector to Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage Davila. The funds relevant to the programs of health, education and energy will continue to be prioritized and managed by Carlos Lage, Francisco Soberon, president of Cuba's Central Bank, and by Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque.

In his letter Fidel recommends that the Non-Aligned Summit scheduled for September 11-16 in Havana be given top priority by the State and the Cuban nation. He further requested that activities scheduled to celebrate his 80th birthday on August 13 be postponed until December 2, the date which marks the 50th anniversary of the historic landing in eastern Cuba of the Granma yacht.

Finally, the Commander in Chief asked for the full support from the Communist Party Central Committee and the Cuban Parliament to meet his requests and expressed his conviction that the Cuban people will struggle to safeguard their historic social process. Imperialism, he said, will never be able to defeat Cuba while the Battle of Ideas will continue to advance.

With the slogans, "Long Live the Homeland, Long Live the Revolution and Socialism", Fidel closed his letter to the Cuban people at 6:22 p.m. on July 31, 2006.


Proclamation of Cuban President Fidel Castro to the People of Cuba

Version of the text of the Proclamation issued by Cuban President Fidel Castro to the Cuban people and which was read on Cuban television at 9:15 p.m., Monday, July 31, 2006:

Due to the enormous efforts made to visit the Argentinean city of Cordoba, participate in the MERCOSUR meeting, in the closing of the People's Summit in the historic University of Cordoba and the visit to Altagracia, the city where Che lived during his childhood and together with that my participation in the commemoration of the 53rd anniversary of the assault on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes barracks on July 26, 1953, in the provinces of Granma and Holguin, days and nights of continuous work with practically no sleep, my health, which has resisted all tests, was subjected to extreme stress and broke down.

This provoked a severe intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding which obliged me to undergo complicated surgery. All the details of this health accident are found in the x-rays, endoscopes and filmed materials. The operation obliged me to rest for several weeks, away from my responsibilities and tasks.

Since our country is threatened in such circumstances by the
government of the United States, I have made the following decisions:

1. I temporarily delegate my responsibilities as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party to Second Secretary Compañero Raúl Castro Ruz.

2. I temporarily delegate my responsibilities as Commander in Chief of the heroic Revolutionary Armed Forces to the aforementioned Compañero, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz.

3. I temporarily delegate my responsibilities as President of the Council of State and the Government of the Republic of Cuba, to the First Vice President, Compañero Raúl Castro Ruz.

4. I temporarily delegate my functions as principal promoter of the National and International Public Health Program to Political Bureau Member and Public Health Minister, Compañero José Ramón Balaguer Cabrera.

5. I temporarily delegate my responsibilities as the principal promoter of the National and International Program of Education to Companero José Ramón Machado Ventura and Esteban Lazo Hernández, members of the Political Bureau.

6. I temporarily delegate my responsibilities as the main promoter of the National Program of the Energy Revolution in Cuba and collaboration with other countries in this area to Companero Carlos Lage Dávila, Member of the Political Bureau and Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers.

The funds related to these three programs -- Health, Education and Energy -- should continue being carried out and prioritized, as I have personally been doing, by Companeros Carlos Lage Dávila, Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers, and Felipe Perez Roque, Minister of Foreign Relations, who have accompanied me in these endeavors and should form a commission to continue the work.

Our glorious Communist Party, supported by the mass organizations and all the people, has the mission of assuming the task set forward in this Proclamation.

The Summit of the Movement of Non-Aligned Nations, which will take place between September 11th and 16th, should receive the highest attention of the State and the Cuban nation, and to celebrated with the highest splendor on the dates scheduled.

The 80th anniversary of my birthday, for which thousands of
personalities have agreed to celebrate on August 13th, should be postponed until the 2nd of December this year -- the 50th anniversary of the Landing of the Granma.

I call on the Central Committee of the Party and the National
Assembly of People's Power to give their strongest support to this Proclamation.

I don't have the slightest doubt that our people and our Revolution will struggle until the last drop of blood to defend these and other ideas and measures that are necessary to safeguard our historic process.

Imperialism will never smash Cuba. The Battle of Ideas will continue forward.

Long Live the Homeland! Long Live the Revolution! Long Live
Socialism!

Fidel Castro Ruz Commander in Chief First Secretary of the Party and President of the Councils of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba July 31, 2006 6:22 p.m.

English Version of the text by Radio Havana Cuba)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This is a magnificent speech by Raul, given in mid-June and it's
been posted to the front page of the Granma daily website ever
since then, in Spanish, English and Portuguese. Give a great idea
of how Raul approaches and describes things. Provides a terrific
image of today's world as seen by the Cuban leadership. This is
an indispensible current political document. Read it carefully.
=====================================================

Once achieved, military invulnerability can only be maintained with
constant improvements

http://www.granma.cubaweb.cu/secciones/raul45ejercito/raul03.html

Speech by Second Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party and Minister of the Army General Raúl Castro, during the event marking the 45th anniversary of the founding of the Western Army in San José de las Lajas, Habana province, June 14, 2006, Year of the Energy Revolution in Cuba

Compañeras and compañeros,

FORTY-FIVE years after 1961, that decisive year for the Revolution,
we can feel the double satisfaction of still having with us the
Commander in Chief of always, and of having acted in accordance with the principle summed up by this affirmation of his: "We shall not
drop our guard for a single minute. We shall not rest for one minute
in the work of organizing the defense."

Fidel made that affirmation on January 20, 1961 before the thousands of Havana militia troops returning to confront – together with their comrades from the center and east of the country – the armed bands incited by the empire in the mountains of the central region, in what was then Las Villas province.

The Revolution had already given palpable evidence that arming the
people was far from being a slogan. It was a reality, growing before
the eyes of the enemy forces, who would be able to confirm that in
their own flesh three months later.

The Bay of Pigs is a crucial landmark in the decision to confront the
enemy with weapons in hand. The Days of the Militia, the Anti-Aerial
Defense (DAAFAR) and of the Tank Regiment are associated with its
battles, and shortly before or after that great victory, the Central,
Eastern and Western armies were born on April 4, April 21, and June
14, respectively. A few days previously, on June 6, the Ministry of
the Interior was created. Thus these have been months of many and
justified celebrations.

Majors of the Revolution Juan Almeida, Ramiro Valdés and Guillermo García, founder members of those institutions and exceptional protagonists of those events, are here as well as myself, who did something for the Eastern Army in those days.

Also present are the current chiefs, Generals of the Army Corps
Leopoldo Cintra, Ramón Espinosa and Joaquín Quintas. I believe that all our combatants, as firmly united as they were in 1961 and always will be, will feel represented by them.

In a fortunate historical coincidence, we are also commemorating
today the birth of two great men: the 161st anniversary of that of
Lieutenant General Antonio Maceo and the 78th of Commander Ernesto Che Guevara, and thus three stages of one same army are symbolically fused in this event: the Mambí (19th century freedom fighters), the Rebel and the FAR (Revolutionary Armed Forces).

WE CUBANS ARE AWARE THAT WITHOUT THE SUSTAINED EFFORT OF OUR PEOPLE TO CONSOLIDATE THE DEFENSE CAPACITY OF OUR COUNTRY, WE WOULD HAVE CEASED TO EXIST AS AN INDEPENDENT NATION A LONG TIME AGO

We Cubans are aware that without the sustained effort of our people
to consolidate the defense capacity of our country, we would have
ceased to exist as an independent nation a long time ago.

In accordance with that principle and after a profound analysis of
the times in which we were living and scenarios that could present
themselves in the short term, on July 15, 2003, our Party,
represented by the plenary of its Central Committee, presided over by
its first secretary, called on everyone to increase whatever we were
doing to fortify our defenses.

That time could not have been more complex. The U.S. government was experiencing the triumphalist euphoria of a supposed thunderous victory in Iraq. That illusion, supported by a gigantic propaganda campaign based on lies, confused a large number of U.S. citizens and many others throughout the world at that point.

Even though the anti-war movement was strong in some areas the
aggressive policy of the empire had the backing of the population at
that moment, as was reflected in surveys.

Many unsuspecting people saw that war as part of a supposed crusade against terrorism. They did not realize that in real terms it was an action coherent with the imperialist plans of planetary hegemony, another effort aimed at controlling essential raw materials, in particular fuel; in parallel, a fresh attempt to go for the old scheme of war as a means of overcoming the economic crisis; and also, not exactly in the last place, to satisfy the desire for profits of the large transnational consortiums.

In those conditions favorable to their interests, it was obvious that
the imperial hawks were considering the possibility of giving a piece
of their mind to those who signified a obstacle to their dreams of
world domination, and evidently, Cuba, for reasons that are all too
well known, could be high on the list of immediate targets.

This U.S. administration’s increasing backing of ultra-right groups
of Cuban origin based in Miami, as well as the extended inciting of
local mercenaries by the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, compounded by increased provocations and acts of terrorism such as the hijacking of civilian vessels and aircraft, all accompanied by the staging of grand media campaigns, were clear signals of such aggressive plans.

That was happening at an extremely difficult juncture for the
country, given the combination of the increased price of oil after
the invasion of Iraq, the collapse of tourism as a consequence of the
September 11 attacks in 2001, and the vertiginous descent of sugar
prices to levels that made its production simply unsustainable in
many parts of the island.

None of that daunted us. Along with other important tasks of the
Revolution, the programs contained in the Battle of Ideas directed at
improving education, health, social security, culture, sports – at
the end of day, the quality of life of the people, went ahead.

The resources for that miracle did not come from any mysterious fund. They emerged from the creative ingenuity, talent and organized and enthusiastic work of our people. Those who have considerably
fortified the country’s defense capacity come from that same source.

OUR SECURITY IN VICTORY IS SUSTAINED BY THE BLOOD OF FALLEN COMPAÑEROS AND IN THE RIVERS OF SWEAT SPILLED BY MILLIONS OF CUBANS

Behind the affirmation of the commander in chief that Cuba today is
virtually invulnerable to a military aggression lie many hours of
dispassionate analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of our
probable enemy, as well as the possibilities of standing up to it
using the ways and methods most appropriate for a small country like ours that does not have great natural wealth, but does have the
exceptional source of the revolutionary morale and knowledge of our
sons and daughters.

Our security in victory is sustained by the blood of fallen
compañeros and in the rivers of sweat spilled by millions of Cubans
throughout the decades and particularly in recent years, who have
worked to make our principal objective of avoiding war a reality.

The terrible hornet’s nest that every corner of our country would
become; I repeat, the terrible hornet’s nest that every corner of our
country would become, would cause enemy losses far superior to those that U.S. public opinion would be prepared to allow.

It is fair to recall that in those extreme circumstances, as in
others we have lived through throughout 45 years of aggression of
every kind, we have not seen nor do we see the U.S. people as an
enemy; quite the opposite.

Last April, in the east of the country, we initiated visits lasting
various days to the territories of the three armies in the company of
Major of the Revolution Juan Almeida and the principal FAR chiefs,
the last of which ended last week with the Central Army.

The objective was to directly confirm on the ground the fulfillment
of the agreements of the Plenary of the Central Committee to which I
referred at the beginning of my address, and the decisions of the
Commander in Chief derived from the Bastion 2004 Strategic Exercise. I can confirm, with full causal knowledge that however significant was the increase in the country’s defense capacity up to that date, since then the effort and, above all, the results, have appreciably doubled.

To the point that it was advisable, the people were aware of the
lengthy sessions that the Commander in Chief devoted to Bastion 2004, which even extended for various days after the official completion of the exercise.

The putting into practice of the decisions derived from that detailed
analysis – a summary of the conclusions reached by hundreds of
leadership and command bodies – signified a considerable qualitative leap in the country’s defense capacity. And I am not referring to issues directly linked to the armed struggle. The measures being adopted in the economic and sociopolitical terrains are just as important.

From the grand collective workshop directed by our Chief emerged
solutions at once rational, creative and bold that permitted an
immediate response to many important problems that had concerned us over a long period.

Aware that human beings are the fundamental component of our
defensive power, particular attention has been given to training
personnel. Not only was the instruction for the troops improved. In
just three years, the leaders and civilian officials who have updated
their knowledge of their duties in relation to defense run into the
thousands.

The military training centers, this Brigade-School where were are
meeting, and other similar ones existing in all the military regions
that make up the three armies, are still playing a decisive role in
attaining that important objective.

Likewise all the defense plans were redrafted, from national level to
the area of defense, to bring them into line with the new realities
and the particularities of each concrete place, based on the new
concepts developed.

As has invariably happened throughout our revolutionary history, and
particularly at moments of danger, when mentioning those who made those results possible one cannot separate the military and civilians because, as always, all of us work closely together.

It couldn’t be any other way. The War of All the People is far from
being a simply theoretical concept, it is a daily reality in every
task aimed at strengthening the country’s defense.

Workers from the Ministry of Construction and from the bodies of
People's Power, engineering troops and military construction workers have built hundreds of kilometers of tunnels and other fortified works. Patriots in uniform or out of uniform attached to other
agencies of state central administration have joined efforts to
develop communications and upgrade and manufacture combat means. This last task – with a rational investment of material resources – has translated into a considerable increase in their combat qualities and, above all, making them correspond to the use we foresee giving them, while allowing the reanimation of one part of national industry and demonstrating the significant potential existing in those workers’ collectives.

It has been the same with tasks directed at the country’s economic
and social development. I shall limit myself to mentioning some
notable examples, such as the important contribution of combatants in the Army of Working Youth over the years, the large group of FAR
officers who have contributed to easing the flow of merchandise from
the ports to its destination, or that currently being undertaken by
the military construction enterprises with workers from the Ministry
of Construction and the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources in
the large-scale diversion of rivers in the eastern region and
subsequently in the center of the island, which will make it possible
to move large volumes of water to the regions traditionally most
affected by drought in the provinces of Holguín, Las Tunas and
Camagüey.

The important results achieved in the training for the defense of the
country are a new point of departure for continued advances. This is
a task that has demanded and will constantly require years of
sustained effort, maximum when the international situation could be
radically transformed in a matter of days. Once achieved, military
invulnerability can only be maintained with constant improvements.

In the strengthening of the defense capacity, creative workers,
intelligence, the revolutionary morale and awareness of the people
and their leaders at all levels and of all institutions have been
more decisive than resources – which have also become available in a growing form.

ONLY THE COMMUNIST PARTY, AS AN INSTITUTION THAT BRINGS TOGETHER THE REVOLUTIONARY VANGUARD AND IS A SURE GUARANTEE OF CUBAN UNITY IN ALL TIMES, CAN BE THE WORTHY INHERITOR OF THE CONFIDENCE DEPOSITED BY THE
PEOPLE IN ITS LEADER

The 47-plus years that have passed since January 1, 1959, totally
demonstrate that the millions of Cubans prepared to defend the
Revolution to the final consequences are not moved by a passing
enthusiasm or political fanaticism, but a confidence based on the
infallible evidence of time and facts, on the profound conviction
that the road chosen is the correct one, and in undefeatable national
unity.

That is the key to our defensive power, to our capacity to resist and
overcome the greatest adversities. The enemy knows that, and for that reason aims its blows at weakening us ideologically. And it does so, above all, with a view to the future, to a scenario that it considers more favorable for its propositions.

We should not forget that they have drawn up a so so-called
transition to capitalism, banking on an end to the Revolution when
its historical leadership is no longer here. For that reason they are
maintaining the so-called Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba with a designated U.S. administrator and everyone to the front, like in the good old days of the Yankee cannons throughout Latin America.

We are confronting an enemy whose obstinacy and arrogance frequently leads it to commit errors, but that does not mean that it is stupid. It knows that the special confidence given by the people to the
founding leader of a Revolution, is not transmitted, as if it were an
inheritance, to those who occupy the main leadership posts in the
country in the future.

I reiterate what I have affirmed on many occasions: the Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution is solely and uniquely the Communist Party, as an institution that brings together the revolutionary vanguard and is a sure guarantee of Cuban unity in all times, can be the worthy inheritor of the confidence deposited by the people in its leader. That is what we are working for and that is how it will be, the rest is pure speculation, not to call it by another name.

Just as we have won all the battles, as much within Cuba as in
fulfilling our internationalist duty, we shall overcome the enemy who
tries to hide within our ranks, we shall further consolidate the
Revolution and we shall make ourselves stronger on all fronts.

Indisputably, circumstances have changed radically in relation to
those existing in July 2003, when the plenary of the Central
Committee that I have already referred to took place.

Whereas at that time, in response to questions asked them or composed surveys, between 90% and 55% of the U.S. population supported the policy of Mr. Bush, at this point in time that figure, at best, is no more than one third of citizens, something that could make even a city councilor quake.

The lightning victory given by the "mission accomplished" in Iraq
three years ago has turned into a maze without a visible way out and
full of mires everywhere. Even Afghanistan, which seemed to be
pacified – at least the principal cities, really the only ones that
they managed to control to a certain extent – are beginning to be
another serious headache for the empire and its allies.

The U.S. economy is hanging more and more on the weak thread of war costs. Add to that the unchecked printing of dollars with which they are trying to counter the growing trade and budget imbalances, any impartial prognosis would point to a debacle sooner or later.

On the other hand, more and more people within the United States are calling for a reassessment of the policy on Cuba, including some
important voices within the U.S. forces.

Without any doubt, it would not seem to be the most appropriate
scenario for undertaking new military adventures, but the lessons of
history must not be forgotten. It would not be the first time that an
imperialist power and, in particular, the United States, has turned
to war as a way of attempting to get out of an internal crisis of any
type.

Neither should we discount the possibility that wounded arrogance or desperation could take them to the insanity of initiating a military
aggression against Cuba, however crazy that might seem to be.

That explains the validity and permanence of what compañero Fidel
stated in the Central report to the 1st Party Congress:

"While imperialism exists, the Party, the state and the people will
lend maximum attention to defense services. The revolutionary guard
must never be neglected. History teaches with too much eloquence that those who forget this principle will not survive the error."

That is how it will be, so that we can always shout in the face of
the empire:

íViva Cuba libre!

3 comments:

Askinstoo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pan-African News Wire said...

Castro 'feels fine' after surgery

Cuban leader Fidel Castro says he is in a stable condition and good spirits following surgery, according a statement read on Cuban TV.

"I feel perfectly fine," Mr Castro was quoted as saying.

On Monday he handed power temporarily to his brother Raul, to recover from his treatment for internal bleeding.

Earlier the Cuban leader, who turns 80 this month, was quoted as saying that a punishing schedule in recent weeks had affected his health.

It is not clear whether he is in hospital or recovering at home.

The statement expressed gratitude for the good wishes Mr Castro received from around the world, and urged Cubans to maintain their daily routines.

"Everyone needs to struggle, and work," he is quoted as saying.

This is the first time Mr Castro has relinquished any of his duties as head of the communist state since he came to power in 1959.

Stephen Gibbs, BBC correspondent in Havana, says most Cubans are taking the news of their leader's sickness in their stride.

The White House has said it is monitoring events while Cuban exiles have been celebrating in Miami.

Raul Castro, the 75-year-old defence minister, has long been designated as his brother's successor should he become incapacitated.

'Normal for now'

Fidel Castro has been among the world's longest-ruling leaders, outlasting nine US presidents.

Shops and offices are open in Havana and there is no sign of extra security, our correspondent says.

Ricardo Alarcon, Cuba's parliamentary speaker, sought to play down the gravity of the leader's condition.

The "final moment is still very far away", he hold the government's Prensa Latina news service.

Celebrations taking place among Miami's Cuban exiles were, he added, "sickening" and he appealed for Cubans to unite around Fidel Castro.

Our correspondent in Havana reports that there is much genuine sadness that the veteran president has been taken ill.

However, he adds, some are more discreetly voicing hope that change may be in the air.

"Everything's normal here - for the moment," hospital worker Emilio Garcia, 41, told US news agency the Associated Press in the capital.

"But we've never experienced this before - it's like a small test of how things could be without Fidel."

Governments in Latin America have wished Mr Castro well while the US state department said it was monitoring events and that it reaffirmed its support for a democratic transition in Cuba.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/5236702.stm
Published: 2006/08/01 23:14:24 GMT

Pan-African News Wire said...

Wednesday August 2, 7:47 AM

Castro 'stable' and in 'good spirits' after surgery

AFP

Cuban leader Fidel Castro is in "stable" condition and in "good spirits" following surgery that forced him to temporarily relinquish power to his brother Raul for the first time, according to a statement read on Cuban television.

The statement, attributed to Castro, broke silence one day after a shocking announcement that Castro was sidelined for the first time since he took power in 1959, plunging Cuba into uncertainty.

But Cubans had yet to see the longtime leader, who turns 80 on August 13, since he handed the reins to his brother and defense chief Raul.

"I can say the situation is stable, but a general recovery in health requires time," Castro said in the statement. "All I can say is that the situation will remain stable for several days before a verdict can be reached."

"I am in perfectly good spirits, and the important thing is that everything in the country function and function perfectly well," it said.

Earlier, the leader of Cuba's parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, said Castro had given instructions to top officials to follow before he underwent treatment.

"The imperialists ignore the strength of Fidel Castro ... he will fight until the very end," said Alarcon, cited by Cuba's Prensa Latina news agency. "But this very end is far away."

Cubans were without Castro at the helm for the first time in nearly 48 years.

"I don't know if they are trying to prepare us for what's coming because of his advanced age," a Havana security guard, 52, said privately. "He is just not up to traveling around any more."

"It is serious, really serious this time," said an elderly worker who requested anonymity like most Cubans asked to comment on Castro's health.

Cuban dissidents were not surprised by Raul Castro's designation as temporary leader, noting he had already been named his brother's heir.

"Any doubts over who was going to lead the succession are already cleared up ... it is evident that Raul Castro is going to lead this succession with a revolutionary dictate," said Manuel Cuesta Morua, spokesman of the social-democrat movement Progressive Arc.

Despite years of harassment by the regime, opposition leaders wished Castro well.

"We have not wished for his death, even in the worst moments," said Laura Pollan, a leader of the Ladies in White group whose husbands, brothers and fathers have been jailed by the regime.

To the north, the United States, which has sought Castro's overthrow for more than four decades, reacted cautiously.

"We don't know what the condition of Fidel Castro is. We don't know the exact facts of this because Cuba is a closed society," said White House spokesman Tony Snow, noting there was "no reason to believe that" speculation that Castro was dead.

Snow also indicated that Washington's policy of trying to isolate Havana was unchanged.

"The one thing we want to do is to continue to assure the people of Cuba that we stand ready to help," said Snow, adding that the US looked ahead to "the day in which they no longer live under the boot of tyranny."

News that Castro had relinquished power sparked hopeful celebrations among the more than one million Cuban-Americans.

Cuban exiles in Miami, many of whom personally fled communist rule over the course of four decades, took to banging pots and pans, honking car horns, waving Cuban flags and chanting "Viva Cuba Libre" -- "Long Live Free Cuba."

Castro has been a major world figure since his band of bearded guerrillas seized power from US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista in January 1959.

His rule, with the support of the former Soviet Union, has been marked by momentous events such as the Cuban missile crisis, which brought the region to the brink of nuclear war, and the failed US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in the 1960s.

Late Monday Castro blamed his ailment on the intense agenda of recent trips to Argentina and eastern Cuba, which "touched off an acute intestinal distress with sustained bleeding, which forced me to undergo delicate surgery."

Castro also asked that his birthday celebration be postponed to December 2, the 50th anniversary of the start of his armed campaign against Batista in the rugged Sierra Maestra mountains.

Speculation about Castro's health peaked after a fall in 2004, when he injured his right arm and left knee. Last November, the Cuban leader, who exercises every day, said he had recovered from these injuries.