Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Castro dead? A fabrication by the Miami crowd!
A woman walks into an office near a photograph of Cuba's leader Fidel Castro at the Escuela Lenin (Lenin School) in Havana September 1, 2007. Castro's long absence from public view has fueled wild rumors among his exiled opponents in Miami in recent weeks that he is dead, even one that Russian embalmers were at work preserving his body. REUTERS/Claudia Daut
Cubans sure Castro is alive
Anthony Boadle, Reuters
Published: Tuesday, September 04, 2007
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban leader Fidel Castro's long absence from public view has fueled wild rumors among his exiled opponents in Miami in recent weeks that he is dead, even one that Russian embalmers were at work preserving his body.
In Cuba, confident Communist Party officials who have been relaxing at the beach are back in town with suntans to show and not an inkling of concern over Castro's health or the country's future without him.
"Don't believe a word. It's all a fabrication by the Miami crowd," said an aide to a senior Cuban official.
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque set off this week on a visit to Iran, a sure sign that Castro is not at death's door, commented a Western diplomat.
Castro, 81, has not appeared in public since he underwent life-threatening bowel surgery that forced him to hand over power 13 months ago to his brother Raul Castro, 76.
Few Cubans have access to the Internet, so most had no clue of the rumor frenzy in Miami, set off by two blogs that declared Castro dead on Aug 24. One falsely reported that South Florida police were on alert and that Cuban media had been playing classical music for two hours prior to an imminent announcement.
On the streets of Havana, Cubans say they have no doubt the ailing leader is alive, even though the country has not seen video footage of him or heard his voice for three months.
Many Cubans appear too busy making ends meet to reflect about Castro's health, let alone read or listen to the regular columns attributed to him in the party newspaper Granma and read out repeatedly on state media.
"He is alive, I'm sure," said Genaro, a sports coach who misses the 1980s when Cuba received Soviet aid, the peso had purchasing power and Cubans could stay at hotels now reserved for tourists.
"With or without Fidel, Cubans are too busy getting by to think about his absence," he said, complaining about the dire economic straits in Cuba, where monthly wages average $15.
Cuban authorities maintain Castro, who seized power leading a guerrilla force in Cuba's 1959 revolution, is recovering from a series of intestinal operations for a secret illness. But they no longer insist he will be back in office.
Even Castro's closest ally, Venezuela's populist president Hugo Chavez, has stopped saying that his political mentor will soon reappear in his trademark military fatigues to rally the leftist Latin American cause against the United States.
Foreign observers in Havana believe Castro is alive, but say he appears to be chronically ill.
A European diplomat said he thought Castro had suffered a relapse in recent months and undergone additional surgery, which would explain why he has not been seen since a pretaped television interview aired on June 5.
"These operations are to save his life, not to cure him," said the diplomat, who asked not to be named.