Tue, Aug 28, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Castro reappears in print but still missing in person

SPECULATION Cuba's president has not been seen in public for more than a year or in videos since June, triggering rumors that he has died


Cuban President Fidel Castro signed a lengthy essay saluting a Cuban political figure but giving no hint of how he is feeling, even amid rampant rumors of his death.

The 81-year-old Castro has not been seen in public in over a year and has not even appeared in official photographs or video footage since taping an interview with Cuban state TV on June 5.

The lack of images has fueled speculation among the Cuban exile community in Miami and elsewhere that Castro might have died. He announced on July 31, last year, that he had undergone emergency intestinal surgery and was temporarily ceding power to his younger brother Raul.

Havana officials have refused to speak about Castro's condition, but Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told reporters in Brazil last week that "Fidel is doing very well and is disciplined in his recovery process."

He insisted that Castro maintains "permanent" contact with top government officials.

Castro's essay, the latest in dozens of "Reflections of the Commander in Chief" columns he has published several times a week since late March, was dated Saturday evening and appeared in the Communist Youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde on Sunday.

Verbose but clearly stated and easy to follow, Castro wrote of Eduardo Chibas, the president of Cuba's Orthodox Party, who was born 100 years ago this month. Chibas campaigned against corruption that plagued Cuba's government before Castro and his band of rebels toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista in January 1959.

Castro listed political events that linked his younger years with Chibas, who shot himself during a radio broadcast in 1951, a year before Batista seized power in a coup. At Chibas' funeral, a young Castro jumped atop the grave to denounce the government.

"With Chibas alive there would have been no way for [Batista] to carry out a coup," Castro wrote, "because the founder of the Cuban People [Orthodox] Party watched him closely and methodically put him up for public scrutiny."

There was no hint of trouble over the weekend in Havana. Official media was dominated by stories of preparation for the new school year and news from Venezuela and Iraq.

However, speculation went into overdrive on Friday in Miami when city officials met to go over their plans for when Castro dies.

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