Foreign and domestic officials close to Cuba's ailing president, Fidel Castro, say he is recovering from his intestinal operation last year, and may resume some of his official duties in Cuba's government soon. But, as VOA's Miami correspondent Brian Wagner reports, experts say the new leadership is already putting its stamp on the government in Havana.
Fidel Castro's health has been a key topic of conversation about the island since the 80-year-old leader underwent surgery in July. Officially, Cuba's government says his physical condition is a state secret. But top officials and foreign leaders close to Mr. Castro say he is gaining strength as he continues to recover from the intestinal operation.
In a recent speech, Bolivian President Evo Morales said he expects Mr. Castro to return to power in the Communist government by late April. And Cuba's National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon says he is certain Mr. Castro will be well enough to assume his responsibilities.
If Mr. Castro does return to power, he can expect to face continued questions about his health, says Andy Gomez, assistant provost at the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies.
"The question we need to be asking ourselves is: is he going to be strong enough and mentally capable enough to demand to run Cuba, as he's done for 50 years," said Andy Gomez.
Gomez says that, if he returned, Mr. Castro would have to retake control from his brother, Raul, who has been running the nation since Fidel's operation.
Many observers say that since the handover of power last July, changes have already begun to take place on the island. One of the most notable changes is in the relatively low-key leadership style of Raul Castro, says Brian Latell, a former U.S. intelligence analyst.
"The era of charismatic, caudillo [dictator] leadership in Cuba, I think, is over," said Brian Latell. "I don't think he [Fidel] is going to come back, and I don't think his successors are going to pursue the same kinds of policies."
Mr. Castro is famous for delivering lengthy harangues intended to call international attention to the U.S. embargo and other restrictions against the island. Latell says the current Cuban leadership is focusing on domestic issues, such as stabilizing the economy and youth employment.
As Cuba's government begins to transform, Andy Gomez says U.S. policy towards the island should change as well.
"We need to start thinking about the future, and about what we as a country in the international community can do, at a time that is crucial given what is happening in Latin America, to accelerate change in Cuba," he said.
Gomez says he feels the United States should begin revising the strict policies that prohibit most trade and activity with Cuba.