Wed Jul 26, 2006 3:15 PM
BAYAMO, Cuba (Reuters) - Fidel Castro, Cuba's leader since 1959, joked on Wednesday that he had no plans to be in power when he is 100 years old.
Castro, who will be 80 on Aug 13, made fun of his long-time ideological nemesis the United States in a speech in which he said more Cubans are reaching 100 thanks to the social services of his Communist government.
"But, our little neighbours to the north should not fear, I am not planning to be in office at that age," the left-wing firebrand said.
Castro spoke to 100,000 people at a rally in the eastern city of Bayamo on the anniversary of the assault he led on a military garrison in 1953 that sparked his revolution.
The Cuban leader has outlasted nine U.S. presidents and survived CIA assassination plots, invasion attempts and the collapse of his Soviet bloc benefactors.
Castro's advancing age -- his pace has slowed since a bad fall two years ago-- has led his enemies to sharpen their knives in preparation for the day he departs the scene.
The Bush administration announced earlier this month it was tightening sanctions on Cuba and adding $80 million to efforts to build opposition to Castro's one-party state on the island.
Washington hopes to prevent a succession headed by younger brother Raul Castro, Cuba's defence minister.
Castro said the United States should stop meddling and look after its own social problems, boasting that Cuba's infant mortality of 6.5 per thousand was lower than the U.S. rate.
© Reuters 2006.