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Cuban Exiles in Miami Hopeful Castro Illness May Bring Change


Cuban exiles in Miami are celebrating the news that Cuban President Fidel Castro has temporarily handed power over to his brother Raul. But the joy has been tempered with calls for caution.

Havana has not released further details about the condition of the 79-year-old Communist leader. The transfer of power is the first known time that Castro has ceded power.

Cuban state-run television said late Monday that Mr. Castro suffered an intestinal problem with sustained bleeding and would need several weeks to rest.

But Cuban exiles are celebrating the news in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. They are hoping for political change after nearly five decades of Mr. Castro's rule.

Drialys Munoz is with a Spanish-language radio station that was broadcasting live outside a popular Cuban restaurant where some exiles gathered to celebrate.

"We want to come back to Cuba," she said. "We are very happy that Cuba is going to be free and that is why we are celebrating, all Cubans here."

The lack of hard information from Havana has led to rumors here that Mr. Castro may have already died and raised questions about what will happen to Cuba after he is gone. Some Cuban exiles urge caution. "It's too early to speculate," said one.

The exiles say they simply want freedom for their country and do not want Raul to succeed his older brother.

"I think what everyone wants is to see eventually a democracy, freedom, the same freedoms we enjoy here and take for granted, over there," said Michael Hernandez, who is with a public affairs consulting group.

In Washington, the White House said there is no reason to believe the Cuban leader is dead and added the administration continues to assure the people of Cuba that the U.S. government stands ready to help.