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Posted July 23, 2003 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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Associated Press
HAVANA: Looking fit and cheerful, President Fidel Castro appeared on a televised broadcast of a graduation ceremony for social workers after several recent rounds of rumors that he was ailing _ or may even had died.

Dressed in his typical olive-green uniform Monday, the 76-year-old leader stood on a stage at Havana’s Karl Marx Theater and handed out diplomas to scores of graduates, shaking hands and chatting with each one.

After the first hour, Castro got up to address the crowd, and praised the new graduates for their hard work and sacrifices.

The source of the rumors, which went largely unreported by major news media, was unclear. Although the government has never publicly commented on the rumors, Cuban authorities speaking privately blamed them on Castro’s enemies in the exile community in South Florida. Rumors about Castro’s health pop up regularly, especially in recent years as he has grown older.

Castro has been Cuba’s unchallenged leader for 44 years, since the 1959 triumph of revolution that sent military coup leader Fulgencio Batista into exile. He turns 77 on Aug. 13.

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