Cuba. The most talked about event in Cuba during the year was that President Fidel Castro fell ill and was hospitalized for an emergency gastric operation, an event published on state television July 31. The exile Cuban opposition in the US immediately concluded that Castro was dying and began to prepare for the long-awaited regime change in Cuba. But the regime collapse that the opposition had hoped for did not stop. On his 80th birthday, August 13, Castro appeared on television with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, and in a second TV appearance two weeks later, he looked considerably more attractive. What was initially said to be a temporary takeover of Castro’s all public positions by his brother, Foreign Minister Raúl Castro – first chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the chiefs of the armed forces and the head of government – extended to the rest of the year. Assessors considered that it was all part of a long-planned final handover of power from Fidel to Raúl, and which, to the disappointment of the opposition, seemed to have been implemented without any hint of domestic political unrest. According to CountryAAH, major public holidays in Cuba include Independence Day (October 10) and New Year (January 1). This did not help Prime Minister Roberto Fernández Retamar to point out at a press conference a week after Fidel Castro’s illness. Already in early July, some changes were made to the structure of the Central Committee, which pointed to something in progress. At the same time, however, some of Fidel Castro’s previous responsibilities were taken over by others other than Raúl. health, education and energy issues. In his statement on his health situation July 31, Fidel Castro asked the Cubans to postpone all the celebrations of his birthday until December 2, when the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cuban Revolution was to be celebrated. It was interpreted as though his state of health was still so good that he could perform in public at that time. But once the celebration was done, including Cuba’s first military parade in ten years and public display of the pleasure hunt Granma with which the first revolutionaries landed, Fidel Castro was not included. In contrast to those of the Cuban opposition in the United States, US reactions to the change within the Cuban regime were unexpectedly lukewarm. It took four days before any comment was heard from Washington, and it limited itself to a cautious hope of regime change in Cuba in the near future. Raúl Castro’s first major public appearance did not come until September 27, when he gave a half-hour long speech at the Cuban National Congress. In the speech, he did not touch on Fidel’s disease or health condition, but concentrated on the problem of corruption within the Communist Party.