Fidel Castro, rumored to ...
Fidel Castro, rumored to have suffered a debilitating stroke or perhaps already be dead, sent a message to the world on Monday: _I don_t even remember what a headache feels like._
So said an article under his name, cheekily titled _Fidel Castro Is Dying_ and published on the state Web site Cubadebate, accompanied by several photographs that appeared to have been taken recently on a farm. In one, he is shown holding a copy of Friday_s edition of the state newspaper, Granma.
Mr. Castro lacerated untruths spread by the _imperialist propaganda_ machine that he said he had been dealing with since the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.
The article was published on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy_s speech to the nation on the discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuba. Dated Sunday but published Monday, it came a day after tantalizing evidence that he was out and about in Havana surfaced on Sunday when a Venezuelan politician visiting the island said he had met with the former Cuban leader for five hours and then showed off a picture of Mr. Castro smiling and dressed in a checkered shirt and straw hat, like the retiree he is.
In the Cubadebate photographs, taken by his son Alex, he is similarly attired, leaning on a metal cane as he gestures at plants and talks.
The Cuban government did not release any photos itself on Sunday. _Fidel is very well,_ Elias Jaua, a former vice president of Venezuela, Cuba_s closest ally, told reporters on Sunday.
Mr. Jaua_s photo was the first publicly shown image of Mr. Castro, 86, since he appeared with Pope Benedict XVI in March during his visit to Cuba, and it seemed to be an effort by Cuba and Venezuela to bat down a deluge of rumors about Mr. Castro_s health.
New whispers almost instantly sprouted over whether it was really him or if the photo was old or a fake.
A spokesman for the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City also released a statement that included a video of Mr. Jaua speaking to reporters and showing the photo, as well as his comment that Mr. Castro had engaged in an _animated_ dialogue with employees at the hotel where he was dropping off Mr. Jaua.
Mr. Jaua said he took the photo on Saturday afternoon in a minibus carrying him, Mr. Castro and other guests to the landmark Hotel Nacional in Havana. They discussed agriculture, history, tourism, international politics and other topics, he said.
The photo shows Mr. Castro smiling at the camera and making a gesture, surrounded by five guests who included the director of the hotel, Antonio Martinez Rodr__guez, and Mr. Castro_s wife, Dalia Soto del Valle.
Mr. Castro did not seem to be in a vegetative state, hooked to a life-support machine or already dead, as rumors on social media sites had it last week, partly fed by a Venezuelan doctor in Miami who said he had heard that Mr. Castro had had a serious stroke and was terminally ill. The fact that Mr. Castro published a congratulatory note to medical students in a government newspaper on Thursday did little to tamp down the rumors.
Mr. Rodr__guez said in an interview on Sunday that Mr. Castro had turned up unannounced and had invited him into the minibus to talk. Mr. Castro did not get out of the bus, he said.
_That_s just how he is,_ he said. _It was very exciting._
With reporters in Havana tipped off that he had met with Mr. Castro, Mr. Jaua emerged from the hotel on Sunday and was peppered with questions about the encounter, producing a print of the photo when asked if he had a picture of Mr. Castro.
Mr. Castro, after a mysterious intestinal ailment, stepped down as president in 2006, handing over official power to his brother, Ra__l Castro, who is 81. The state news media reported on Sunday that the former leader had voted by absentee ballot in municipal elections.
In the Cubadebate article, Mr. Castro said he no longer wrote his opinion articles regularly _ the last appeared in June _ _because it was really not my role to take up pages in our press which are needed for other work the country requires._
Granma, the official newspaper, said Mr. Castro on Sunday _was visited at home by a member of the electoral council to submit his ballot that was later turned in at a local precinct and deposited in the ballot box._
Ra__l Castro, for his part, appeared in pictures and state-released video on Sunday as he voted. Scholars not allied with the government called the elections a charade.
Fuente - Autor: By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD