Cuban leader Fidel Castro said Monday he is undergoing surgery and will temporarily transfer his presidential powers to his brother, Raul.
Cuban President Fidel Castro addresses a crowd of Latin American students gathered in Pedernales,in Holguin province, Cuba, for the anniversary of the attack on the Moncada barracks Wednesday, July 26, 2006. The attack, in 1953, is said to be the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. (Javier Galeano/Associated Press) Castro said in a letter read live on television by his secretary that he has suffered gastrointestinal bleeding, brought on by stress from recent public appearances in Argentina and Cuba.
"This caused an acute intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding," said the statement read out by aide Carlos Valenciaga.
Castro, who turns 80 on Aug. 13, has been leader of the country since toppling the regime of Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
News of Castro's surgery sparked celebrations in Miami's Little Havana overnight. Cuban exiles living in the city waved flags and took to the streets shouting "Cuba! Cuba! Cuba!"
Castro did not appear in public to announce the switchover, and a planned birthday celebration has been postponed until December, on the 50th anniversary of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces.
Castro shattered a kneecap and broke an arm when he fell after a speech on Oct. 20, 2004, but has consistently brushed off any concerns about his failing health.
Raul Castro, 75, has been second-in-command since that time. He will take over as first secretary of the ruling Communist Party, commander in chief of the armed forces and president of the executive council of state.