- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2007

President Fidel Castro’s exit from Cuba’s political scene is unlikely to spur major changes in the situation there, two House members who recently visited the country told reporters yesterday.

Reps. Jim McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat, and Jo Ann Emerson, Missouri Republican, were part of a 10-member congressional delegation that visited Havana last month.

“There’s no indication at all that what this administration’s been telling people for a long time, that there’s going to be this massive uprising, is going to happen — that’s not going to happen,” Mr. McGovern said.

Mr. Castro ceded power to his brother, Raul, in July, until he could recover from surgery, but the notion that his death would lead to a fundamental shake-up in Cuban politics is dismissed by some analysts, including the Economist Intelligence Unit in London.

Although Cuba’s government may still be hanging onto the idea that Fidel Castro will return, average Cubans “have already kind of moved on,” Mr. McGovern said.

Both House members said that without a shift in U.S. policy, political changes are not likely in Cuba. Mr. McGovern suggested that eased relations with the United States could lead to political liberalization.

He also said some senior Cuban officials might not want the United States to ease its embargo or otherwise loosen relations, saying that every time the two countries start to get close, “they do something stupid,” such as arrest dissidents or shoot down a plane.

Mrs. Emerson criticized U.S. isolation of Cuba for providing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez an opportunity to exert influence and was critical of Radio and TV Marti, the U.S. government program to broadcast U.S. values into Cuba.

She called the program a “waste of taxpayer dollars” and said the money could be better spent on cooperative counternarcotics or counterterrorism efforts with Cuba.

Yesterday the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that Mr. Castro was suffering from diverticular disease, which can cause bleeding in the lower intestine, especially in people over 60. In severe cases, emergency surgery may be required.

“In the summer, the Cuban leader bled abundantly in the intestine,” El Pais reported. “This adversity led him to the operating table, according to the medical sources. His condition, moreover, was aggravated because the infection spread and caused peritonitis, the inflammation of the membrane that covers the digestive organs.”

The recovery from the first operation, in which part of his large intestine was extracted and the colon was connected to the rectum, did not go well, resulting in peritonitis, the report said.

A second operation to clean and drain the infected area was conducted. Doctors removed the remainder of Mr. Castro’s large intestine and created an artificial anus. But this operation also failed, El Pais said.

The Cuban leader was then hit with inflammation of the bile duct. He developed a condition called cholecystitis, which is an inflammation of the gall bladder. El Pais said this condition has an 80 percent mortality rate.

A prosthetic device made in South Korea was implanted in the bile duct and failed, and was replaced with one made in Spain, the report said.

El Pais said that in December, when Spanish surgeon Dr. Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido visited, Mr. Castro had an abdominal wound that was leaking more than a pint of fluid a day, causing “a severe loss of nutrients.” The Cuban leader was being fed intravenously, the report said.

c This story was based in part on wire service reports.

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