HAVANA, Jan. 31, 2007 — A video of Fidel Castro aired by state television Tuesday evening has bolstered claims by officials and a Spanish doctor that the ailing Cuban president is not at death's door but on the mend.
The 80-year-old Castro, who temporarily handed power to his younger brother and defense minister, Raul Castro, six months ago to undergo abdominal surgery, appeared stronger than in a previous video aired three months ago. He also has put on weight.
The five-minute video showed Castro in a red, white and blue track suit standing, sitting, sipping juice and talking animatedly with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during an unannounced visit to Havana on Monday.
Months of Rumors
Castro's illness and whereabouts have been a carefully guarded secret, spawning nonstop rumors and speculation over the condition of the historic, if controversial, bearded figure.
"He is in good condition. Within the confines of doctor-patient privilege, I can say President Castro is not suffering from a malignant condition," Dr. Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido, head of surgery at Madrid's Gregorio Maranon public hospital, told a news conference in December after examining Castro.
"He does not have cancer," Sabrido said. "He has a problem with his digestive system. … And has suffered complications."
However, the Spanish newspaper El Pais, citing sources at Sabrido's hospital, reported earlier this month that three botched operations had left Castro suffering from the deterioration of his large intestine. It was reported that Castro was in grave condition and being fed intravenously, a claim Sabrido denied.
Tuesday's five-minute video was carefully edited from what was reported to be a two-hour meeting with Chavez, Castro's closest ally and designated Latin American revolutionary successor.
"Fidel has said that we have not lost this battle," Chavez said in the video. "I'll say something more: We have won it."
I know some Cuban Americans who will be very disappointed to learn that Fidel is still alive.
However, as I know from experience with grandparents that age, you can pick out 5 minutes of a day where they look strong and the rest of the day appear weak. The man is 80 years old, and will not live forever.
The real question, is Cuba better off with his brother? Raul will not change Cuba into a democracy. He is committed to Communism, as is his brother. America will not normalize relations with Cuba if Raul is in charge. Also, what is the influence of Chavez over the Castros? Will Chavez dominate Raul? Will Cuba become a puppet for the emerging communist state in Venezuela? Will the Cuban Counsel of State (who selects the President and First Vice President) select a non-Castro...unlikely. Can real change in Cuba occure if either brother is alive?