HAVANA – In his first public comments since becoming Cuba's acting president, Raul Castro said his brother Fidel is recovering and that thousands of troops were mobilized soon after his illness was announced, according to an interview published Friday.
Raul Castro, 75, thanked the doctors and others who have cared for his brother, saying they "have attended to him in an excellent manner ... with much love and dedication. This has been a very important factor in Fidel's progressive recovery."
Raul Castro, the nation's Defense Minister, said he mobilized the island nation's troops in the hours after his brother's illness was announced July 31.
"We could not rule out the risk of somebody going crazy, or even crazier, within the U.S. government," he told Lazaro Barredo, editor of the Communist Party's Granma newspaper.
"I decided to substantially raise our combative capacity ... including the mobilization of several tens of thousands of reservists and militia members," he said.
A noticeable but still discreet increase in the number of reservists on Cuba's streets was evident in the first days after it was announced Fidel had undergone intestinal surgery. Cubans were asked to affirm their allegiance to the government and willingness to fight for it in the event of an attack.
Raul Castro, has been at his brother's side since launching the revolution with the attack on the Moncada military barracks in 1953 and fought with him in the Sierra Maestra mountains against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. As No. 2 man in the government, the younger Castro is constitutionally designated to replace his brother should he die or become incapacitated.
The government has treated Fidel Castro's ailment, his exact condition and the type of surgery he underwent as a "state secret."
While Fidel Castro recovers, "absolute tranquility is reigning in the country," the younger brother said.
The younger Castro said that the Cuban people's calm manner in the more than two weeks following his brother's illness "reminded me of the conduct of the Cuban people during the heroic days of the so-called Missile Crisis in October 1962."
Raul Castro noted that international media had commented on his absence from public view in the days after he took provisional power, adding that "those comments don't bother me in the slightest."
He said he did care about what the Cuban people are thinking, however, and pointed out that he appeared on state television on Sunday, his brother's 80th birthday, to greet visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the airport. He also appeared in photographs of a birthday gathering with his brother and Chavez.
"As a point of fact, I am not used to making frequent appearances in public, except at times when it is required," Raul Castro said in the interview. "Many tasks related to defense should not be made public and have to be handled with maximum care, and that has been one of my fundamental responsibilities" as Defense Minister.
He also noted that "I have always been discreet, that is my way, and in passing I will clarify that I am thinking of continuing in that way," Raul Castro added. "But that has not been the fundamental reason why I don't appear very often in the mass media; simply, it has not been necessary."