On the streets of Havana, surprise and disbelief as the news spread

The people of Havana were finding it difficult to imagine life without Fidel yesterday. Few of those on their way to work in the early hours were even aware of the news on the front pages of Cuba's official newspapers.

The Communist Party dailies Granma and Juventud Rebelde that broke the story still hadn't reached many kiosks, so few Habaneros had read the news before it began to flood the airwaves of the state-owned radio and television stations.

Their first reaction was surprise, and initial disbelief. "It said what?" exclaimed Armando, 69, a carpark attendant in the El Vedado neighbourhood of the Cuban capital, astonished at the news.

With tears in his eyes, Armando nodded his head and said: "He is very ill, it's to be expected." The ailing leader had always said that he would never quit his post while he remained alive, but many Cubans had begun to think that his prolonged absence signalled his withdrawal from power.

Alberto, 32, an administrator, said the 81-year-old leader "must have suffered a relapse". "He's been off a long time," referring to Fidel Castro's 19-month convalescence from a serious intestinal illness suffered in July 2006. But Alberto added: "Make no mistake. Even though he says he's no longer President, he'll keep reading the documents and saying this yes and that no. Fidel will keep on ruling."

There had been signs in recent months hinting that yesterday's announcement was in the air, one Havana-based international commentator observed.

Since December, President Castro has written articles in Granma in which he said he "would never cling to power".

Gustavo, 28, a security guard, said: "I think they made the announcement so they can stop calling Raul Castro first vice-president and second party secretary, and just call him President directly." But, the young man added, even if Raul Castro became President – a development he considered inevitable – Cuba would experience few changes in the short or medium term. "Here things are done at their proper time. Just because Fidel ceases being President, things aren't going to change overnight," Gustavo declared.

But a driver, who said he would rather not give his name, said he found Fidel's resignation "a logical development", necessary to avoid prolonging for any longer the situation in which an interim President has ruled for 18 months. "It was obvious he would resign, and now things will be better."

Cuban radio and television repeated the announcement throughout the day, but without adding any further comment.

Alicia, 44, a private landlady, confessed she didn't usually listen to news programmes. But she thought that President Castro's decision to resign was: "Precise, the right thing at the right time. He's administered the plaster before the wound appears. If he did it today, rather than waiting until next Sunday [when the national congress is to appoint a new ruling cabinet] because he's calculated every move."

"He's not a great economist, he's brought this country to economic ruin," she added. "But as a politician he's a genius." She said she hoped the future would bring "something new because it's necessary, the situation demands it".

Enma, 78, said: "I think the panorama looks very difficult. I'm worried, I'm trembling, because I don't know what changes this new situation will bring. I don't think there's anybody who's more intelligent than Fidel." Alberto, 55, took the news in his stride, and even ventured to suggest that "the announcement that he has resigned doesn't mean that he won't continue".

Among those who heard the news early was Esther, a retired teacher who listens regularly to her favourite station, Radio Marti. "As far as I'm concerned he had effectively already resigned, and I think everything will continue just the same. If he doesn't speak, he'll write," she insisted. "Nothing will change. For the moment, there's no solution."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'