Communist Cuba geared up Monday for its traditional May Day march featuring hundreds of thousands of workers, but an appearance by recovering leader Fidel Castro at the event was uncertain.
Castro, 80, has attended the annual May Day march for decades, but there was no official word whether the leader would be well enough to make it this year.
Doubt was cast over a potential appearance Monday night, as a written statement attributed to Castro was delivered to the press uF;FFD the fourth such black and white commentary from the historically animated orator in the space of a month.
CBS News producer Portia Siegelbaum reports from Havana that the 10-page statement, entitled “Reflections of the Commander in Chief”, is a call for “an energy revolution”. Castro often focuses his attention publicly on protecting the worlduF;FFDs poor from plunder by developed countries.
For many Cubans the document, dated 6:34 p.m. April 30, dashes hopes that Castro might make his first public appearance at Tuesday’s festivities. He has been unseen in public for nine months, convalescing from surgery for intestinal bleeding caused by a still-unknown illness.
The Communist Party newspaper Granma declared that marchers at the Tuesday event in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution will be “united and strong with the revolution and the party, with Fidel and Raul” Castro.
Smaller marches will be held simultaneously in other cities around the island, with the government expecting several million of the nation’s 11 million people to participate.
The document attributed to Castro only mentions the May Day march in the last paragraph, in which the statement also strikes out at the release of Castro’s long-time nemesis, Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles.
“Tomorrow, May 1st, is a good day to take these ideas to the workers and all the world’s poor, together with the protest against something so incredible and humiliating that has occurred: the release of a monster of terrorism, just coinciding with the 46th anniversary of the Revolutionary Victory at the Bay of Pigs.”
Echoing Castro’s indignation, marchers will protest the recent decision to free Posada, a former CIA agent and anti-communist militant, pending his trial on U.S. immigration charges.
Cubans are enraged by the re-emergence of Posada, one of Castro’s oldest enemies, reports CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan. Posada is a figure on par with Osama Bin Laden to many Cubans, accused of blowing up a Cuban jetliner in 1976 with 73 people on board, and a string of hotel bombings.
Fidel Castro has not appeared in public in the nine months since announcing he underwent emergency intestinal surgery and temporarily ceded his functions to his 75-year-old brother Raul, the defense minister. He has appeared only occasionally in government photographs and videos, appearing stronger and more robust in more recent images.
He met separately in recent weeks with Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez and a top Chinese Communist Party leader and has penned three editorials.
Cuban officials have given increasingly upbeat reports about Castro’s health, but have declined to speculate about whether he will appear Tuesday.
Siegelbaum reports there has been no official indication on whether Castro will attend Tuesday’s festivities, but top government leaders, like parliament president Ricardo Alarcon, have hinted that its more important for the 81-year-old leader to recover fully than to make a public appearance.