Castro 'looking good' in first public outing for four years

Fidel Castro has made his first public appearance since falling ill in 2006 and relinquishing the leadership of Cuba, the country's state-controlled media has reported.

Castro, 83, remains the head of Cuba's Communist Party and its talismanic revolutionary leader, despite having handed the reins of government to his 79-year-old brother, Raul. His emergence coincides with the decision of his brother's regime to begin the biggest release of political dissidents in years.

Photographs taken by Fidel Castro's son Alex were released to the government website Cubadebate, after snatched pictures from a cameraphone were posted on blogs run by state-supporting journalists. Looking thin, but healthy, and in smiling and animated poses, Castro was shown talking with directors of the National Centre of Scientific Investigations at a ceremony to celebrate the institution's 45th anniversary last Wednesday.

News of the visit first came out on a pro-government blog, which posted pictures of the former dictator waving to admirers. The blogger, Rosa Baez, wrote that Castro was spotted making a "surprise visit" to the centre on Wednesday and stopped to greet and "throw kisses" to the group that waited for a chance to see him.

"He is thin, but looked good and, according to our director, is very good mentally," wrote Ms Baez, whose work appears on a website called Bloggers and Correspondents of the Revolution.

In the photos, the white-bearded Castro is dressed in a sports jacket, as he has in virtually all photographs published since he went into seclusion. Until now, official pictures have shown him meeting visiting dignitaries in his rooms, rather than making public appearances. Last year, the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said that Castro had been going for walks near his Havana home, but no photos were released to confirm that.

Castro fell ill in July 2006, handing power to his brother on a temporary basis and then, in early 2008, relinquishing the presidency for good. He has continued to wield influence by writing opinion columns in state-run media and through his behind-the-scenes power.

After leading a revolution that toppled a US-backed dictator, Castro ruled Cuba for 49 years and, with his many televised speeches and numerous public appearances, dominated Cuban life.

His first public appearance in years comes as Cuba prepares to release 52 political prisoners, all jailed in a crackdown on the opposition in 2003 while Castro was still in power. The deal was brokered last week by Catholic Church leaders and is the largest release of dissidents since 1998.

The released prisoners will be flown into exile in Spain. Over the weekend, families waited excitedly for news.

Irene Viera, the wife of one prisoner, Julio Cesar Galvez, said she and her son, who live in Havana, had been called in for medical examinations yesterday ahead of the trip to Spain. "I'm already saying goodbye to friends," she said.

Families of other prisoners said state security agents had advised them to be ready for departure at any time. Moralinda Paneque, the mother of Jose Luis Garcia Paneque, told the news agency Reuters that she had been informed her son had left a prison near the city of Las Tunas and was being driven the 410 miles to Havana by state security agents.

She said the government's plan was to gather the family in the Cuban capital, where they would take a flight together to Madrid.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine