Castro: a healthier picture emerges

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A photograph of Fidel Castro printed by one of Cuba’s official newspapers has shown the 83-year-old former president apparently in good health, after illness forced him out of the public eye three years ago.

Castro was pictured on the front page of the Juventud Rebelde newspaper meeting the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, who is paying a private visit to the island.

Castro’s failure to appear at last year’s celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution led to speculation that his health had deteriorated further, and previous photographs have shown him dressed in an ill-fitting tracksuit, looking tired and drawn. In contrast, he appeared fit and alert, wearing a crisp white short-sleeved shirt.

Castro had been head of the Communist state since leading the 1959 revolution, but delegated power to his younger brother, Raul, after he was rushed to hospital with intestinal bleeding in July 2006. Castro underwent a series of operations and the Spanish newspaper, El Pais, claimed he had diverticulitis, or inflamed bulges in his large intestine.

Castro has rarely been seen in public since, although occasional photographs and video clips have beenreleased. He officially handed the presidency to Raul in February last year. Castro’s health remains a state secret and the latest newspaper picture caused a stir in Havana yesterday as people gathered around kiosks to wait for the publication. One resident told reporters: “I’m waiting for the paper to see him because it’s beena long time since a photo was published and I want to see how he is.”