Honks, cheers in Miami as Fidel Castro steps down
The news that Fidel Castro is stepping down as Cuban leader sparked some honks and cheers among exiled Cubans in Miami, but others expressed skepticism that it would bring about real change in their homeland.
Reporters outnumbered motorists honking horns and shouting "Free Cuba" early Tuesday in Little Havana, but the noise and traffic later picked up.
"I think everyone has been waiting for a moment of change," filmmaker Adriana Bosch told CBC News, car horns drowning her out.
"It has been 49 years since Castro took power, and this is really, truly the first opportunity for there to be some change in Cuba."
Castro, 81, announced Tuesday he would not seek re-election as president of the Communist party because of his continuing ill health. He temporarily relinquished power to his brother ahead of Sunday's election.
Raul Castro, 76, is expected to take over the leadership of Cuba permanently.
Last year, he acknowledged that government wages were too low to meet the needs of Cubans and suggested the country needed some modest reforms.
But nothing really changed after Raul Castro took the reins when his brother stepped down temporarily in July 2006, some Cuban-Americans gathered in Little Havana noted.
Some people said they believed it was just a matter of one Castro being replaced with another. One man told CBC News he doesn't see any hope for change until Fidel Castro is in a coffin.
For his part, the longtime leader of Cuba has said he will stick around, writing letters and giving his opinion.
In the streets of Cuba, it was mostly business as usual Tuesday. Regular programming played on television and there were no speeches from any of the key members of the Communist party, including Raul Castro.
Freelance reporter Juan Jacomino said people had been prepared for the news that an ailing Fidel would step aside.
Nevertheless, he told CBC News, the fact that Castro stepping down after so many decades in power will have a big impact on Cuban society.
"The days ahead up to Sunday are extremely exciting in Cuba. Imagine, this is a nation that for nearly 50 years has had the same person in the top political notch and now that's changing," Jacomino said.
There are other contenders for the top job, though they are within the former leader's circle, he pointed out.
"These are young people that will certainly provide continuity," he said.
In the short term, Bosch, who was 14 when her family left Cuba, is hoping for quick reforms that put food on the table of Cubans.
But in the long term, she wants democracy.
"I think this is really, truly the first time when the first step in that direction might be taken," Bosch said.
With files from Associated Press