Fidel Castro looked frail but alert and even playful in a series of official photographs taken during a meeting with Brazil’s president on Tuesday, the first images of the ailing Cuban leader released in months.
Wearing a tracksuit and tennis shoes that have become his trademark since he fell ill, Castro is seen seated and grinning, his beard well-trimmed and his hair combed as he talks with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. In some images, Castro is seen playing with a camera.
The pictures were given to reporters as Brazil’s leader left Cuba, concluding a 24-hour visit during which Silva offered the communist government millions of dollars in credit and signed a deal to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
It was the first time authorities have released photos of Castro since October when he met with his good friend and socialist ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Castro, 81, has not been seen in public since emergency intestinal surgery forced him to cede power to his younger brother Raul in July 2006.
His condition and exact ailment are state secrets, though he has met behind closed doors several times with Chavez and released essays on an array of topics that appear in state-run media. He has also met with Bolivian President Evo Morales, Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega and officials from China and Vietnam.
The meeting between the Castro and Silva, who are friends, was private except for the release of the photographs. A spokesman for Silva who declined to be named in line with department policy confirmed the meeting but would not say what the leaders discussed.