By Isabel Sanchez | AFP
Cuban leader Fidel Castro, sidelined by intestinal surgery almost eight months ago, is now recovering at a faster pace, taking part in daily government affairs, and fueling talk he may return to the helm of Cuba’s communist government soon.
“The pace of his recovery process has picked up. We are all expecting it to be completed shortly,” Vice President Jose Ramon Fernandez told reporters.
Still, Fernandez said, “it is clear that after a lengthy illness one has to rest and take precautions and factor in the absolutely overwhelming dedication he always gives his work, hours and hours, and days without rest; and we have to protect him from that.”
Castro, 80, underwent intestinal surgery and then on July 31 temporarily handed the reins of government to his brother Raul Castro, 75, the defense chief and regime’s number two.
The Cuban government has given very little detail on Fidel Castro’s health, which it considers a state secret.
For a few months Cuban officials sounded cautiously optimistic; then for a few months, less-than-optimistic.
US intelligence officials from Cuba’s arch-enemy the United States said it looked as if he would not be long for this world.
Now, Cuban authorities again sound convinced that the man who has led Cuba for more than four decades may well make it back on the job.
And signs of the old Fidel have been starting to emerge.
Monday, Fidel Castro was on the phone to Haiti’s capital “in talks on a cooperation agreement between Cuba, Venezuela and Haiti,” Haitian President Rene Preval said after signing the deal with visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Castro’s closest ally, and Cuban vice president Esteban Lazo.
Chavez said Fidel Castro took part by telephone “to consolidate a great stride in trilateral cooperation.”
Monday, close Castro associate Felipe Perez Roque told reporters in Paris that Fidel Castro “is improving noticeably” and is more involved in daily government business.
So Cuba’s enemies “are going to have to wait,” warned Perez Roque.
“He is in direct contact with leaders of the (Cuban Communist) Party and the Government, we consult with him on various issues, and he increasingly is taking part in the work,” said Perez Roque, on a European trip.
Foreign analysts and diplomats in Havana however say that while Fidel Castro may be faring better, no one should expect the famously longwinded orator and man of few hours sleep to work like he used to work.
He may become an active, symbolic face of the Americas’ only communist government, while delegating much of the work he used to do himself.
National Assembly speaker Ricardo Alarcon told Argentina’s Clarin daily that Fidel Castro had not left power, but stopped doing things the way he used to do them.
“Those long speeches, being at every ceremony, being on top of each and every issue. Well, that is just not normal. ... Will he return to doing things like before? That’s something else.”
Reviewing a military drill in Pinar del Rio province, interim president Raul Castro said Sunday that Fidel Castro had had a “progressive recovery.”
Two weeks ago, Fidel Castro appeared in his first live broadcast in months, by phone with Chavez on his radio and TV program, sparking hope among supporters and dismay among Castro’s foes. He sounded more at ease, coherent and stronger than in prior taped footage.
Fidel Castro’s eldest son, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, said February 16 that his father would make a full recovery.
“Both his character and body; we are going to have him back soon,” insisted a 67-year-old retiree who lives in the Havana neighborhood of Miramar, with a smile.