News24

Fidel Castro statement issued amid rumours

2012-10-18 09:42

Havana - The first public statement in almost four months from Fidel Castro appeared in Cuba's state media on Wednesday, as rumours persist about the 86-year-old revolutionary icon's health.

Castro has not been seen in public since 28 March, when Pope Benedict XVI paid a landmark visit, and briefly the following week on 5 April with Chilean student leader Camila Vallejo - both appearances more than six months ago.

Health Minister Roberto Morales read out a message from Castro on Wednesday at Havana's Institute of Medical Sciences, praising graduates for "honourable missions in far-off corners of the world in very difficult circumstances".

The statement was released five days after Alex Castro, one of the ex-president's sons, said his father is "going about his daily activities", and "exercises, reads and stays in shape".

Castro held onto power as 10 US presidents took office and each after the other sought to pressure his Communist regime over the decades following his 1959 revolution, which closed a long era of Washington's dominance over Cuba.

Castro ceded the presidency to his younger brother Raul, aged 81, in July 2006 for health reasons.

Prior to Wednesday, nothing had been published in Castro's name since 19 June.