Fidel Castro – remember him? – has released his first public statement in four months. Castro’s latest missive follows recent speculation on social media that the former Cuban leader was close to death or dead.
Cuba’s state media released a message from Castro on Wednesday, though there was no new footage or images of the 86-year-old. Fidel Castro has been curiously absent from public life in 2012. He was last seen publicly in March during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba, and his regular newspaper columns and musings suddenly dried up in June.
Stranger still, the re-election of his close ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez this month brought no response from the ex-leader. The disappearing act fueled whispers that Fidel Castro was knocking on death’s door, or actually dead.
However, according to Alex Castro, one of Castro’s sons, all is well with his father. Alex told Cuban state media:
“The comandante is well, following his daily routine, reading, exercising.”
Fidel Castro never made a full recovery from botched surgery on an intestinal illness in 2006, and his brother Raul Castro succeeded him in 2008.
In his new message released Wednesday, Fidel Castro reportedly congratulated doctors who had graduated from a Cuban medical institute that was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the institute’s founding. And that wasn’t the only significant anniversary for Cuba: Castro’s message also referenced the 50th anniversary this week of the Cuban missile crisis.
On Tuesday, the Cuban government revealed plans to lift some of the restrictions on Cubans who were traveling abroad.