Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Fidel believes in Obama, Fernandez says

FIT AS A FIDEL Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said she met with Fidel Castro, who ‘looked good,’ and that he had seen Barack Obama’s inauguration on television

AP , HAVANA

Fidel Castro watched the US inauguration on television and said on Wednesday that US President Barack Obama seems “like a man who is absolutely sincere,” Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said after meeting with the ailing Cuban icon.

“Fidel believes in Obama,” Fernandez said.

The meeting with Fernandez, just before she ended a four-day visit to Cuba, dispelled persistent rumors that the 82-year-old Castro had suffered a stroke or lapsed into a coma in recent days.

“I was with Fidel about an hour or more,” she told reporters at the airport as she left. “We were chatting, conversing. He looked good.”

Hours later, Castro issued his own account of the meeting in a brief essay that called Obama “honest” in his ideas.

Fernandez said Castro wore the track suit tqhat has become his trademark since he fell ill in July 2006 and vanished from public view. A spokesman said the two met alone.

“He told me he had followed the inauguration of Barack Obama very closely, that he had watched the inauguration on television all day,” Fernandez said. “He had a very good perception of President Obama.”

Fernandez said Castro called Obama “a man who seems absolutely sincere,” who believes strongly in his ideas “and who hopefully can carry them out.”

Raul Castro, who took over the presidency from his brother 11 months ago, appeared earlier with Fernandez and scoffed at the rumors about his brother’s health.

“Do you think if he were really gravely ill that I’d be smiling here?” Raul Castro said. “Soon, I’m going to take a trip to Europe. You guys think I could leave here if Fidel were really in grave condition?”

Castro, 77, said his older brother spends his days “thinking a lot, reading a lot, advising me and helping me.”

“Now you know that Fidel is fine and not like the rumors around here,” Raul Castro said.

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