'Fit' Fidel Castro appears in public

2012-10-22 10:21

Havana - Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro has reappeared in public, meeting at a Havana hotel with a Venezuelan politician - quashing swirling rumours that the former leader was on his death bed.

Castro - who led Communist Cuba for almost five decades before illness sidelined him - "is very well", Venezuela's former vice president Elias Jaua said on Sunday after meeting the bearded revolutionary icon.

The 86 year-old Castro "is very well, very lucid", Jaua, a loyal supporter of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose government keeps the cash-strapped Cuban regime afloat with cut-rate oil and aid - told reporters.

After the five-hour meeting on Saturday, Castro accompanied Jaua back to the posh Hotel Nacional, where the visitor was staying, and then posed wearing a straw farmer's hat for pictures with hotel staff.

"We are going to have Fidel with us for a long time," said hotel manager Antonio Martinez, who posed with Castro for a picture, in which Jaua also flashes a broad smile.

Martinez said the former Cuban president was accompanied by his wife Dalia Soto del Valle during the visit to the hotel.

Jaua, who is currently a candidate for Miranda state governor for Venezuela's ruling party, said he spoke with Castro about agriculture, history and international politics.

Castro, who rose to power after the 1959 revolution, ceded the presidency to his younger brother Raul, 81, in July 2006 for health reasons.

Castro had not been seen in public since 28 March, when Pope Benedict XVI paid a landmark visit to Cuba, and again briefly the following week on 5 April with Chilean student leader Camila Vallejo.

Serious intestinal surgery

That fuelled rumours his health had worsened, that he was dead or on his death bed - particularly since Castro also had not published one of his usually frequent editorials in official state media since 19 June.

In the past five years since falling ill after serious intestinal surgery, Castro has penned about 400 editorials as well as books about the revolution, and welcomed a few international leaders in private events.

Last week, he sent a letter of congratulations to medical school graduates which was picked up in state media, but he did not appear in public at the time.

With rumours about Castro's health rife abroad, one of his sons, photographer Alex Castro, said last week at an exhibit in Guantanamo of pictures he took of his father after 2010 that Castro "was in good shape, doing his daily activities, exercising, reading and taking care of himself".

The re-election of Chavez, 58, in Venezuela this month likely brought huge sighs of relief in Havana. For now, it can continue to count on Caracas' critical economic support, as Cuba presses its quest for its own oil to fund the Americas' only Communist regime in the future.

Meanwhile, President Raul Castro, sporting his general's uniform, was out early on Sunday at a polling station to cast his ballot in one-party municipal elections, state TV showed. Fidel Castro cast his vote by absentee ballot, as those with physical ailments are allowed to do.

  • richard.bosmano - 2012-10-22 10:31

    When this fidel dies,awesome. Have a beer to celebrate,as when gaddafi,arrafat kicked the bucket. mugabe will be a sixpack

      deabreu - 2012-10-22 11:42

      Mugabe is champagne! When Mugabe goes, this world will be a better place, and Hell will open its doors to another dictator to shovel coal for eternity - with all his supporters.

  • keith.f.murphy - 2012-10-22 11:31

    Richard get your poepsak fixed with a huge one you brainless idiot scumbag

  • albert.m.burger - 2012-10-22 12:21

    They got a stick up his bum and did a bit of a pinocio conversion on the old fart.

  • john.cryink - 2012-10-22 14:12

    Being a good communist wonder how many people he murdered ore ordered to have murdered?

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