HAVANA -- A stronger-looking Fidel
Castro said his recovery from an intestinal ailment was "far from a lost battle"
as state television showed a video of him meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez almost six months to the day after he temporarily gave up power.
|Cuba's President Fidel Castro shares a moment
with his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez in Havana January 29, 2007.
Ailing Cuban leader Castro was shown on state television on Tuesday for
the first time in three months, meeting with Chavez in
Havana. [Reuters] |
Castro stood, appeared alert and was shown drinking juice in the 10-minute
video clip that aired Tuesday, but which state TV said was shot during Chavez's
previously unannounced visit to Havana on Monday.
The newest images -- the first in three months -- appeared aimed at deflating
the latest round of rumors about Castro's health as his absence from power
reached the half-year mark. The government has kept Castro's condition and
exact ailment secret, sparking speculation among average Cubans on the island
and his foes in exile.
The 80-year-old Cuban leader, who dropped from public view in late July after
emergency intestinal surgery, looked heavier than in previous images that had
showed him thin and frail.
"This also is far from being a lost battle," Castro, dressed in a red, white
and blue track suit, said of his current health problems.
He noted that when his severe intestinal problems struck last summer he was
still not fully recovered from a devastating October 2004 fall that severely
injured a knee and a shoulder. "One after the other," Castro said of his health
Later in the video, Chavez was even more optimistic, saying Castro had
already won the battle to recover his health. The leftist Venezuelan president's
brother, Education Minister Adan Chavez, was also seen in the video visiting
Castro, who led the 1959 armed revolution that drove out dictator Fulgencio
Batista, had ruled Cuba for almost 48 years when he stunned the nation on July
31 by temporarily ceding power to his younger brother, the 75-year-old defense
Since then, Raul Castro has led the nation at the head of a collaborative
leadership that has kept the government running calmly in his brother's absence
from public life.
Cubans watching the video being shown repeatedly on the nightly television
news as they sat in open cafes and restaurants in Old Havana said the images
reassured them about Castro's health.
"He looks a lot better now," said 28-year-old law student Nicolas Fernandez,
who predicted Castro would live another 12 years. "I think it was a positive
video. He's well; strong of mind and body."
The date the video was taken could not be independently confirmed. In it,
Chavez said the two-hour private meeting took place on Monday and ended at 3
p.m. on Jan 29. In Caracas, a presidential spokeswoman, speaking on customary
condition of anonymity, confirmed that Chavez made a one-day visit to Havana on
On the video, Castro was also heard reading aloud a headline from a printout
of an article dated Saturday from the Web version of Argentine newspaper Clarin.
US State Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore declined to comment on the
The most recent previous video of Castro aired on October 28 and showed a
thinner, frailer Castro.
The Cuban leader has not been seen in public since July 26 -- five days
before he stepped aside.
The newest images seemed to be aimed at knocking down recent rumors about
Castro's health, including a report in a Spanish newspaper earlier this month
that said he was in "very grave" condition.
El Pais, citing two unnamed medical sources from Gregorio Maranon hospital in
Madrid, had reported Castro was still recovering after three failed operations
and complications from an intestinal ailment common in older people called
The hospital employs surgeon Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido, who flew to Cuba in
December to treat Castro. The article's authors later said Garcia Sabrido was
not among their sources and he later dismissed much of the report as half-truths
Cuban officials told visiting US lawmakers last month that Castro does not
have cancer or a terminal illness and will eventually return to public life,
although it was not clear whether he would return to the same kind of absolute
control as before.