Cuba’s Fidel Castro reportedly sends letter; prisoners released
By TRACY WILKINSON
U.S. says last of 53 jailed Cubans are freed, while Fidel Castro is said
to write a letter after long absence
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro, whose absence from public view for
months has fueled rumors that he might be dead, reportedly sent a letter
to Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona, assuring his friend that he
is just fine, thank you.
Meanwhile, the United States announced that Cuba had released the last
of 53 jailed dissidents whose freedom was requested as part of thawing
relations between the two countries — and a momentous event that Castro
has not commented on.
In Cuba, reactions to thaw with U.S. run from cold to warm
Venezuela’s state-run television network Telesur, reporting from Havana,
on Monday showed Maradona holding aloft the purported Castro letter.
The authenticity could not be independently verified, but the letter
appeared to be on Castro’s stationery, his name written in cursive on
the upper left hand of each page.
Maradona is in Havana this week to tape a popular soccer television
program. It was unclear how the letter reached him.
In it, Telesur reported, Castro, 88, said he was in decent health and
then mused about various world events, much as he used to do in columns
published by the Granma communist daily. Those too have been suspended.
Telesur did not say whether Castro commented on the recent moves toward
normalization between the United States and Cuba after more than half a
century of hostilities. The Cuban revolutionary leader’s silence on the
matter also fed the rumors about his demise.
As part of the moves to normalize ties, Cuba completed the release of
the jailed Cuban dissidents named by the U.S. government, National
Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in Washington.
Newly freed Cuban spy’s wife pregnant — with a little help from U.S.
“We welcome this very positive development and are pleased that the
Cuban government followed through on this commitment,” she said.
Many had been jailed for protesting the government or promoting a series
of political and social reforms, she added.
The White House had refused to release the names of the 53, but
Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Monday sent the list to Sen. Patrick
J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who made it public.
In Havana, dissidents belonging to the Cuban Human Rights and National
Reconciliation Commission said in a telephone interview that they were
checking Kerry’s list against their own lists to verify who was who —
and who might still be imprisoned.
Jose Daniel Ferrer, head of another group, the Patriotic Union of Cuba,
said he could confirm that about 40 people on the Kerry list were indeed
freed. But he said 11 additional members of his organization remained
imprisoned for political activities and were not on the list.
“We are grateful to the Obama administration for taking an interest,” he
said by telephone from Havana, “but the Castro regime is not acting in
A particularly virulent bout of rumors about Castro’s supposed death
last week, emanating from Miami, never gained traction in Havana.
Separately, Castro’s nephew Alejandro, who is the son of Fidel’s brother
and current President Raul Castro, denied in a radio interview the rumors.
“He is in good health,” he said, according to Cuban news reports. “No
need to pay attention to that type of information.”
Telesur said the confusion might have started when Fidel Castro Odinga,
the son of a former Kenyan prime minister, died Jan. 4.
Times staff writers Kathleen Hennessey and Paul Richter in Washington
contributed to this report.
Source: Cuba’s Fidel Castro reportedly sends letter; prisoners released
– LA Times –