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Castro becomes Cuban premier

By
Francis L. McCarthy

HAVANA -- Fidel Castro, 32-year-old leader of Cuba's revolution, was sworn in as prime minister last night and conceded he faced "the toughest test of my life."

The man who toppled the regime of Fulgencio Batista was sworn in by Acting President Manuel Urrutia before top government officials in the Hall of Mirrors at the Presidential Palace.

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Castro said he wanted to "carry forward the revolution in Cuba," but conceded it will be no easy task. He said the premiership called for hard work and sacrifices. Castro became the youngest head of government in Cuba's 56-year history.

"The only thing that preoccupies me," he said, "is that Cuba receives from us all that it expects at the end of our (revolutionary0 journey."

He appealed to Cubans not to be impatient about reforms, but to "aid and understand us."

Castro said that although the constitution had been revised to make young men eligible for the presidency, he was not a candidate for that office at present, "And I hope I never have to aspire to the presidency," he added.

After the palace ceremony, Castro moved into the office of outgoing Prime Minister Jose Miro Cardona. In turning over the reins of government to Castro, Miro Cardona said the leader of the revolution was "the man most fitted for the job."

Miro Cardona said he personally felt satisfied that he had carried out his obligations to Cuban turning over the office to Castro.

The entire cabinet was present at the palace ceremony but the formal assumption of the job at El Prado offices was witnessed only by Castro's closest friends.

As Castro took over the reins of government, the man he had denounced as the "No. 1 war criminal" of the Batista went on trial again for his life.

Maj. Jesus Sosa Blanco, accused of murder, looting and arson, was brought in handcuffs before a military tribunal in the Superior War Court Building -- a setting far different from the raucous, noisy trial witnessed by 30,000 Cubans in the sports palace last month at which Sosa Blanco was sentenced to death. Criticism of the atmosphere of the first trial led to the re-trial yesterday.

His associates predicted that Castro's first official action will be to solve a three-week-old impasse between the government and the foreign diplomatic corps over the issue of diplomatic asylum.

Some 200 followers of ousted President Fulgencio Batista are refugees in more than a dozen Latin American embassies here. It was generally expected that Castro would extend them safe conduct passes to go abroad.

The abrupt halt in the issuance of such passes three weeks ago because of differences of opinion in the interpretation of treaties covering the right of asylum brought on the impasse.

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