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A Cuban death rehearsal

With Fidel Castro apparently on the verge of death, I returned to Cuba to visit old friends. Little has changed over recent years and life for most Cubans remains harsh. Yet western visitors continue to romanticise the place

By Bella Thomas   June 2007

When Javier heard the news on the radio last July, his first reaction was to go out and buy 15 packets of cigarettes, in case any ensuing tension lead to scarcities in the city. Then he returned to his flat to wait and to watch. He stayed inside for several days. Many others did the same. Fidel Castro had handed over power to his brother, Raúl. It should have been momentous. There were rumours of further political change, there was speculation that the comandante en jefe was actually dead, there was talk of jubilation in Miami, but all was quiet…

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