Sat, Mar 31, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Castro lashes out at Bush on using alternative energy

BACK TO WORK?Fidel Castro's future role has been the source of much speculation in light of increasingly optimistic reports about his health


President Fidel Castro has signaled he is itching for a return to public life after eight months of illness that has kept him out of sight, lambasting US biofuel policies in a front-page newspaper editorial.

But Castro's scathing attack in the Granma Communist Party daily on Thursday left questions unanswered: What future role will Castro play in domestic politics and government? When will he appear again in public?

In his article, the 80-year-old revolutionary asserted that US President George W. Bush's support for using crops to produce ethanol for cars could deplete corn and other food stocks in developing nations, putting the lives of billion people at risk worldwide.

"There are many other issues to be dealt with," Castro wrote at the end of his editorial, apparently promising more such missives.

Unlike several other written messages signed by Castro since he fell ill, this one did not seem aimed at dispelling rumors about his health and did not even mention that he has been sick.

"This shows a more aware and lucid Castro than that suggested by the wan pictures we've seen over the past few months," said Cuba specialist Wayne Smith, who served as the US' top diplomat in Havana from 1979 to 1982.

"My own take is that this does not presage some early return to power," Smith said. "Rather, it is a matter of Castro wanting to get his two cents in about a subject he cares much about."

Castro's future role has been the source of much speculation on and off the island, especially as senior Cuban officials and family members have given increasingly optimistic reports about his health.

Castro's condition and exact ailment remain a state secret, but he is widely believed to suffer from diverticular disease, a weakening of the walls of the colon that can cause sustained bleeding.

While some seem confident Castro will resume the presidency he temporarily ceded to his younger brother Raul Castro on July 31, others think the man still popularly referred to as "El Comandante en Jefe" -- Commander in Chief -- is more likely to take on a less physically demanding post as elder statesman, weighing in on international issues while Raul Castro and a new collective leadership handle daily domestic affairs.

Fidel Castro "no longer has the physical capacity to sustain his previous activity," said Manuel Cuesta Morua, a center-left Cuban intellectual and dissident.

Before he fell ill, Fidel Castro was famous for his exhausting schedule, often staying up all night to entertain visiting foreign leaders and speaking extemporaneously on live television for hours.

"This is his way of saying `I'm here!'" Cuesta Morua added.

Yet Castro has not appeared in public since turning over his presidential functions to his 75-year-old brother, the defense minister Raul Castro.

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