By Amanda Beck
WASHINGTON, Aug 1 (Reuters) - While Cubans waited for word of President Fidel Castro's condition, the online world outside Cuba burst alive with speculation about his surgery, health and atmosphere on the island itself.
One rumor claimed an eye-witness had already seen Castro die. Others said his temporary power abdication was only a ploy to out unfaithful party members.
"There are rumors and more rumors," blogger Valentin Prieto said, noting that Internet access within Cuba was limited because of government control.
That left exiles and others outside the country to relay tidbits they picked up in telephone calls from Cubans to Internet discussion forums, newsgroups and blogs.
The stories were varied: the Cuban military had been dispatched to quell disturbances, there had been a coup by high military officials, the press was being kept away from government offices.
One blog said that Castro loyalists patrolled the streets with iron bars while residents screamed "Abajo Fidel," or "Down with Fidel."
Above all, the blogs questioned the veracity of Monday's government announcement that Castro had temporarily ceded power to his brother, Raul, while he underwent intestinal surgery and recuperated.
"He is as dead as it comes. Otherwise, there would not have been any transmission of powers," Charlie Bravo posted to the Cuban blog Killcastro.
Others cautioned that Castro had beat the rumors before.
"The truth is that (Castro) has died many times," Luis Garcia said on his blog, Child of the Revolution, where he recalled a recent heart attack report.
"That sense of never knowing what is going on in the upper echelons of the regime has been a constant of Cuban life for close to half a century," Garcia said. "But this time it may be different."