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Posted October 24, 2004 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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Taking pains to demonstrate that he retains firm control over Cuba after fracturing his knee and arm in a fall at a public event, President Fidel Castro says he conducted government business by cellphone during an ambulance ride and later refused general anesthesia.

“I have not stopped attending to the tasks that I am responsible for, in coordination with the other comrades,” Mr. Castro, 78, wrote in a lengthy note that was read Thursday night on state television.
Mr. Castro said he underwent a three-hour, 15-minute operation to repair his left knee, which was broken in eight pieces, and the immobilization of his left upper arm, which has a hairline fracture. He said he remained awake the whole time, anesthetized only from the waist down, so he could “attend to numerous important issues” with his chief of staff, who dressed in surgical scrubs.

He said earlier that he had remained in contact with his office via cellphone during the ambulance ride back to Havana from Santa Clara, the central city about a three-hour drive from where the accident occurred.

Mr. Castro, who has been in power here for 45 years, has fought to dispel concerns about his health and his ability to keep governing.

“I’m all in one piece,” he declared on state television on Wednesday just minutes after he fell.

An official notice carried by state media on Thursday said, “His general health is good, and he is in excellent spirits.” It added that he hoped to be “back in place” soon.

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