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
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat