Miami To Hold Party When Castro Dies

This photograph provided by Cuba's Juventud Rebelde newspaper Sunday, Oct. 29, 2006 shows Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who temporarily ceded power to his brother Raul in July following intestinal surgery. Castro had not been seen since mid-September when photographs of him receiving world leaders at a summit in Havana were released.
AP Photo/HO, Juventud Rebelde
The city of Miami is planning an official celebration at the Orange Bowl whenever Cuban president Fidel Castro dies.

Discussions by a committee appointed earlier this month by the city commission to plan the event have even covered issues such as a theme to be printed on T-shirts, what musicians would perform, the cost and how long the celebration would last.

Such a gathering has long been part of the city's plan for Castro's death, but firming up the specifics has been more urgent since Castro became ill last summer and turned over power to his brother, Raul.

City Commissioner Tomas Regalado, a Cuban American, came up with the idea of using the Orange Bowl, noting that the stadium was the site of a speech by President Kennedy in 1961 promising a free Cuba, and that in the 1980s it served as a camp for refugees from the Mariel boatlift from Cuba.

Castro "represents everything bad that has happened to the people of Cuba for 48 years," Regalado told The Miami Herald for a story in Monday editions. "There is something to celebrate, regardless of what happens next."

The 80-year-old Castro has undergone a series of operations following an intestinal infection. Earlier this month, a Spanish newspaper said Castro's condition was "very grave."

Former state Rep. Luis Morse stressed the need for an uplifting theme for the party — one not preoccupied with a human being's passing.

Critics have accused the city of dictating where people should party, with many preferring to celebrate on the streets of Little Havana. The city says the Orange Bowl celebration would not preclude that.

"This is not a mandatory site," Regalado said of the Orange Bowl. "Just a place for people to gather."

Ramon Saul Sanchez, leader of the Miami-based Democracy Movement organization, worries about how a party to celebrate a man's death would be perceived by people outside the Cuban exile community.

Sanchez also pointed out that, even after Castro dies, his communist government still will be in place.

"The notion of a big party, I think, should be removed from all this," Sanchez said. "Although everybody will be very happy that the dictator cannot continue to oppress us himself, I think everybody is still very sad because there are still prisons full of prisoners, many people executed, and families divided."