The old man and his knee: Castro takes a fall

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The Independent US

President Fidel Castro broke his left knee and right arm after tripping and falling having delivered an hour-long televised speech, raising new questions about the 78-year-old Cuban leader's health. President Castro hurriedly asked the Cuban people to remain calm and assured them he would make a quick recovery.

President Fidel Castro broke his left knee and right arm after tripping and falling having delivered an hour-long televised speech, raising new questions about the 78-year-old Cuban leader's health. President Castro hurriedly asked the Cuban people to remain calm and assured them he would make a quick recovery.

Mr Castro, leader of the country for more than 45 years, tripped as he walked down some steps having spoken at a graduation ceremony in Santa Clara, 175 miles east of Havana, on Wednesday. He was helped into a chair from where he told the audience, both those present and those watching on television, that he remained in control.

"Please excuse me for having fallen," he said. "Just so no one speculates, I may have a fracture in my knee and maybe one in my arm. But I remain in one piece. Trust that I'll do everything possible to recover as soon as possible, but, as you can see, even if I have to get casts, I can continue my work."

The Cuban government confirmed the injuries yesterday: "The medical examination confirmed what the commander-in-chief himself anticipated, that after his accidental fall at yesterday's ceremony there is a fracture in his left knee and a fissure in the upper part of the humerus of the right arm, which will be treated appropriately."

It added that Mr Castro "is in a good general state of health and his spirits are excellent".

Mr Castro's fall, which was not captured by Cuban television but was filmed by international crews, recalled an incident in June 2001 when he fainted while delivering a long, open-air speech under a scorching sun. People reportedly burst into tears as they saw him collapse, only to return to the podium moments later to assure them he was well.

Then, as now, the incident triggered speculation about who might succeed Mr Castro. For many years his designated successor has been his younger brother, Raul Castro, 73, serving as Defence Minister, and who fought with him in the Cuban revolution that overthrew President Fulgencio Batista on 1 January 1959.

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