Cuba shows the recovery of Castro on his 80th birthday

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The Independent US

The Cuban authorities have used the occasion of Fidel Castro's 80th birthday to provide the first incontrovertible evidence that the country's leader is still alive after surgery two weeks ago.

The Cuban authorities have used the occasion of Fidel Castro's 80th birthday to provide the first incontrovertible evidence that the country's leader is still alive after surgery two weeks ago.

A series of photographs, published on the website of one of the country's two state-controlled newspapers, Juventud Rebelde, shows Mr Castro from the waist up, sitting in a chair in what appeared to be his bedroom. One shows him purportedly talking on the telephone while another shows him holding a copy of Saturday's edition of the state-run publication Granma, presumably to date the photograph. He is wearing a red, white and blue adidas tracksuit jacket rather than his customary military fatigues.

"I feel very happy," says a statement attributed to Mr Castro. "For all those who care about my health, I promise to fight for it."

Meanwhile, Mr Castro's younger brother Raul made his first public appearance as Cuba's interim president when he travelled to Havana's airport to meet the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, who was visiting Cuba to celebrate the ailing leader's birthday.

While the appearance of Raul and the photographs of Mr Castro will probably help to ease anxiety among ordinary people, the comments that accompanied those photographs will also add to doubts expressed by some observers as to whether he will recover sufficiently to resume all his previous duties.

Mr Castro's statement adds: "To say the stability has improved considerably is not to tell a lie. To say that the period of recovery will be short and there is now no risk, would be absolutely incorrect. I suggest you be optimistic and at the same time always prepared to receive bad news."

He concludes: "The country is running well and will continue to do so." Saturday's edition of Granma said Mr Castro was walking and talking again and had even started doing some work, though the authorities have said that details of the leader's health are a state secret. As a result, there have been few details about his operation or his recovery.

The report on Saturday likened Mr Castro to a tropical hardwood tree ­ the caguairan ­ that is native to eastern Cuba. It said: "A friend tells us that just a few hours ago, upon visiting the Comandante who was briefly dispatching some business, he witnessed some good news that he enthusiastically summed up in one sentence 'The caguairan has risen'."

While Mr Castro's official birthday celebrations have been postponed until later in the year, about 3,000 young Cubans attended a midnight event on Saturday outside the US interests section in Havana, the de facto embassy of the US. The crowds repeatedly shouted Mr Castro's name, according to Reuters.

For the past eight months an electronic message board erected on the side of the US facility has been delivering "pro-democracy" messages aimed at ordinary Cubans. The move is part of a continuing effort to bring about a transition from Cuba's one-party rule, a policy that was underlined earlier this year by the establishment of an $80m (£45m) fund by the US to bring about "transition from repressive control to freedom". The authorities responded by erecting flag poles flying black banners to hide the messages.

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