Is Fidel Castro still in control?

Although Raul Castro was declared the new Cuban leader in February, Fidel Castro may not have stepped down completely.

Fidel was supposed to remain as a consultant on matters of national defense, foreign policy and the island's economy. But according to reports by a Cuban government official who asked to remain anonymous, Fidel has retained a great deal more control than what has been apparent.

''Fidel Castro is once again in command, like in the best of times,'' said the Cuban official. "He often picks up the telephone to control a meeting or find out about a discussion at the Council of Ministers.''

Fidel has been increasingly assuming responsibility for governmental policies and actions; meeting with visiting dignitaries, and being consulted on a variety of matters.

Upon arriving in Caracas Saturday, during his first visit abroad as Cuba's leader, Raúl Castro showed deference to his older brother, telling Venezuelans that he had brought "regards from the leader of the revolution.''

The first public evidence of Fidel's return to decisionmaking in Cuba came in late April, following the dismissal of Education Minister Luis Ignácio Gómez. Two days after the official statement confirming the minister's ouster, it was Fidel Castro who explained the situation in one of his published ``reflections.''

''In this special and important case, besides my personal appreciations, I was consulted and fully informed,'' wrote Castro at the time. "I assume, therefore, the full responsibility for this decision, whatever the reactions and consequences.''

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