Cubans Ask What's Next as Castro Makes a Comeback

"First, his health will not let him keep up the same pace of work and focus. Second, the leadership is making certain adjustments in … personnel and certain policies. Sure, Fidel can and has always reversed previous decisions he did not like, but this is quite different," Mora said.

"He will have influence over key strategic issues, but direction over the government and Communist Party is now fully in the hands of the Raulistas," he said.

It's a view shared by many experts and Cubans.

"I don't think he will run the country again," Anaida said. "First, because he has to take care of himself, and second, because we need him as a guide, leading us, and if he goes back to his work he won't last long." Pia and Maria, biting into chocolate éclairs, once more nodded their heads.

"Raul's leadership will become stronger as Fidel gradually fades," said Domingo Amuchastegui, a former Cuban intelligence officer who defected in the early 1990s and now teaches in Florida.

"Raul will play a decisive role in shaping what is, and will be, the crucial question. What comes after the Castros, and that will include significant economic changes to meet people's growing expectations," he said.

Thursday's editorial, though, left little doubt that whatever his future role, Castro has not lost his sense for the dramatic nor penchant for berating the United States for being the cause of the poor's plight.

Castro charged that the U.S. plan to turn food into ethanol would lead to massive famine and the death of no less than 3 billion people.

"This is not an exaggerated figure, it's more likely cautious," Castro wrote.

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