FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Two years after a crippling stomach illness forced him to give up power, a hospitalized Fidel Castro is still in his Adidas track suits, still writing newspaper columns on international affairs and, experts say, still getting in his brother’s way.

Perhaps most important: the 81-year-old former dictator continues as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, wielding one of the island’s most powerful positions even as his brother Raul officially runs the nation.

“Fidel is like global warming: You may not be able to see it, but you know it’s there,” said Gustavo Perez Firmat, a Cuba scholar at Columbia University. “And like global warming, he will be there for a long time. Cubans say: ‘A bad bug never dies.’ That applies to Fidel. Even if we outlive him, we won’t outlive him.”

Castro has not been seen in public since a speech he gave July 26, 2006. Five days later, his personal assistant stunned the world with a late-night announcement that the Cuban leader was so ill that he had “provisionally” turned over power to his brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro.

Raul Castro held that interim post until Feb. 24, when the National Assembly formally selected him to do what had largely already taken place without incident: take over. But even as Raul Castro makes early signs toward changes, his brief tenure has been marked mostly by stagnation, which experts say is largely due to the fact that his brother still lives.

“We’re in a standoff now,” said Frank Mora, who studies the Cuban military at the National War College in Washington, D.C. “Right now Raul might want to go further, but won’t, because Fidel is still around. Fidel would like to be more inflexible, but he recognizes he is no longer in power.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.