The Cuban government has released a statement from President Fidel Castro saying his heath is stable and he is in good spirits after intestinal surgery. News of the president's ill health has sparked big celebrations in Miami, where the city's sizable Cuban exile community continues to hope for democracy on the island.
The statement from Mr. Castro was read by an announcer on Cuban television Tuesday. The 79-year-old Communist leader, according to the statement, says his health is stable and the defense of Cuba is assured. Mr. Castro also thanked his well-wishers and said he needs time to recover. The statement went on to say that specifics about the president's condition are a state secret due to the threat posed by the United States.
The news of Mr. Castro's ill health and the transfer of power to his younger brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro, came late Monday, and triggered an eruption of celebrations in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood.
The festive mood continues, with motorists honking horns, playing music and waving Cuban flags.
The exiles have long sought democracy and freedom for the island, and are hoping that political change is in Cuba's near future.
Martha Menendez was among those that lined part of Calle Ocho, the main street of Miami's Little Havana, Tuesday evening.
"I'm hoping for the freedom of Cuba, and I don't wish death to anyone, but enough is enough," she said.
Emilio Cobos says too many Cubans have died trying to flee the island by boat to reach the United States. He says he wishes for Cuba to return to the way it was before Mr. Castro took power.
"My dream is that Cuba will be free like it is the United States and the United States will be able to help Cuba to rebuild Cuba again," he said.
Detective Delrish Moss with the Miami Police Department says the demonstrations were peaceful and people are full of expectations.
"We're in the wait and see mode, but everyone in Miami is waiting on bated breath to see what is actually happening there," he noted.
He says in the event of Castro's death, the city expects large and spontaneous, but peaceful demonstrations.