Thursday, December 16, 2010

Secret cable: Fidel Castro's death won't spark riots or migration

This cable discusses Fidel Castro's health and says the U.S. Interests Section is prepared for his death.

ID: 187408
Date: 2009-01-15 17:22:00
Origin: 09HAVANA35
Source: US Interests Section Havana
Classification: SECRET
Dunno: 08HAVANA969
Destination: VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUB #0035/01 0151722
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 151722Z JAN 09
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4042
INFO RUCOWCV/CCGDSEVEN MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COGARD INTELCOORDCEN WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/NAVINTELOFC GUANTANAMO BAY CU PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAORC/US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY 0015

S E C R E T HAVANA 000035

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/14/2019
TAGS: PINS, PGOV, PINR, SMIG, PREL, CU
SUBJECT: THE SPECULATION ON FIDEL'S HEALTH

REF: 08 HAVANA 969

Classified By: COM Jonathan Farrar for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: Fidel Castro's extended absence from public
view, especially during the celebration of the 50th
anniversary of the revolution, combined with the long time
since he has written one of his occasional "Reflections"
pieces is prompting speculation in the international press
that his health has taken a turn for the worse. Comments by
Venezuelan President Chavez that Fidel will never be seen
again have caused some to speculate that he may already be
dead. There is, of course, no mention of this in local Cuban
press and the rumor mill on the street is subdued, if not
silent, on the issue. Whatever the situation, from our
vantage point the likelihood of a substantial short term
effect on migration or security in Cuba is small, even if the
Comandante's death is announced.

WHAT WE KNOW NOW

2. (C) Fidel has not written a "Reflection" piece since
December 15. Especially given the significance of the 50th
anniversary of the revolution on January 1, this is unusual.
The celebrations themselves were surprisingly subdued,
confined to a short ceremony featuring President Raul Castro
in Santiago (reftel). It also appears true that Fidel was
not seen by the latest in a continuing stream of
international visitors: Presidents Torrijos of Panama and
Correa of Ecuador. It is particularly noteworthy that Correa
did not see him, as he is considered an up and comer within
the South American left. Fidel was last photographed with
Chinese President Hu Jintao in November. In the picture he
appeared alert, but thin and weak. Were it not for the 50th
anniversary celebration, Fidel's current absence would not
have generated as much speculation in the international
press. He has gone silent for extended periods on other
occasions since he stepped out of public view in July 2006.
But each time he reemerged after speculation about his
condition in the foreign press reached a certain crescendo.

3. (C) Perhaps because the Cuban public has grown accustomed
to false alarms over the past two years, while the level of
speculation in the international press has increased, the
local rumor mill is not producing much more than usual. We
remain in regular contact with members of the dissident
movement, and none has detected anything out of the ordinary
in the past few weeks. The ongoing crackdown against their
activities, which went into high gear following the
hurricanes last fall, continues unabated. We have noticed no
notable change in the local security posture in Havana, e.g.,
no additional police on the street or obvious military
movements.

AND WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN HE IS DEAD?

4. (S) At this point, we do not believe the announcement of
Fidel's death would alter the local security situation in any
significant way. GOC officials would most likely manage the
death announcement and subsequent funeral arrangements, etc.,
in great detail with a view towards putting the best face on
the situation, both domestically and to the world. Utmost
care will be given to ensuring that the Cuban public
understands that Raul and the rest of the GOC remain in firm
control. The event will be treated with appropriate
solemnity, but also designed to achieve maximum propaganda
value. It is probable that no announcement will be made
until the GOC feels confident that all preparations have been
made in accordance with the preceding.

5. (S) We do not believe the announcement of Fidel's death
will spark either violent demonstrations or a quick surge in
migration. The security arrangements noted in the previous
paragraph and the Cuban people's generally conservative
nature after 50 years of repression, combined with still
significant admiration for Fidel personally, argue against
short term disturbances. Far from generating a surge in
migration, the announcement of his death could cause a drop
in such activity as Cubans wait to see if Fidel's passing
brings any change to the island.

6. (S) USINT has reviewed its procedures for dealing with
the death of Fidel and is prepared to deal with potential
contingencies.
FARRAR

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