After year without seeing Castro, Cubans ask questions
By Francisco Jara | AFP
You’d think the time is ripe for some pomp and drama from Fidel Castro,
as Cuba and the US plan a resumption of ties ending decades of enmity.
But the aging ‘comandante,’ famous for fist-pounding speeches that went
on for hours and hours, remains largely silent and out of view, leaving
his fans flummoxed.
In fact, Thursday marks one year to the day since Castro’s last public
appearance and the prolonged absence is fueling rumors about the health
of the now retired 88-year-old leader of Cuba’s communist revolution.
Castro has not spoken publicly about the bombshell announcement three
weeks ago that the United States and Cuba plan to restore full
diplomatic relations, ending a freeze of more than 50 years.
Nor did he attend a welcoming ceremony for three Cuban agents released
by the United States as part of the deal to prepare for those normalized
relations. Those agents are commonly referred to here as heroes.
– ‘Very frail’ –
Out in the streets, people are puzzled.
“I was very surprised that Fidel did not appear when the heroes arrived
or speak about the restoration of relations with the United States,”
Doraylis Jimenez, a 20-year-old dancer, told AFP.
“People say he is holed up in his house because his health is very
frail,” she added.
She said the government really should say something about Castro because
people are concerned and rumors are swirling.
Castro yielded the Cuban presidency to his brother Raul in July 2006,
stepping aside after a prolonged period of poor health.
His last appearance in public was January 8, 2014 when he attended the
opening of an art gallery owned by an old friend named Alexis Leyva, who
goes by the name Kcho.
In July, Castro held separate meetings in his Havana home with Chinese
President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Since then he has only written occasionally in state run media in pieces
he calls “reflections.” The last two came in October.
– ‘I want to see him’ –
“Of course, we miss the commander. But only God knows how he is, if he
is well, if he is sick or if he has died. I personally do not think he
has left us, but it is rumored that he is very sick,” said Patricia
Rigondeaux, a 42-year-old hairdresser.
“I want to see him, for him to appear as he did in that feature” on the
art gallery, she added.
“You always want to see him and see him well, but Fidel is very old now.”
A Western diplomat said reconciliation between the United States and the
release of the Cuban agents are a victory for Fidel but his poor health
prevents him from appearing in public.
“Fidel cannot appear but this is the culmination of diplomatic work in
which he was involved. There is no doubt about that,” added Gabriel
Molina, former editor in chief of the official newspaper Granma.
The last account of Castro came from a poor family that was invited to
his home — an honor usually reserved for foreign dignitaries.
The family’s eight-year-old son Marlon Mendez Cabrera collects photos of
Castro, and wore Castro-style olive drab military fatigues during the
two and a half hour visit.
Castro wore a blue sports jacket and checked shirt and talked about a
variety of things, especially his new hobby, which is growing an edible
plant called moringa, the boy’s mother Wendy said.
“When Marlon said goodbye as a soldier would, Fidel also got up and
saluted him like a soldier,” said the boy’s grandmother Maria Elvira
Source: After year without seeing Castro, Cubans ask questions – Yahoo
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