At 81 or 80, Castro still a no-show for his birthday party
BY FRANCES ROBLES | Miami Herald
Fidel Castro spent his birthday Monday very much as he did last year’s: fighting illness amid rumors that he is at death’s door.
According to official accounts, he just turned 81. But a leading Cuba expert says anecdotal evidence shows Castro actually was born a year later, in 1927, and has lived a lie most of his life. Castro, according to former CIA analyst Brian Latell, just now became an octogenarian.
But whatever Castro’s age, rumors began circulating last week that his health had taken a turn for the worse. And unlike Aug. 13, 2006, which was marked by the first photos of an ailing Castro, this year’s birthday took place without a word or snapshot from the sickly leader. Celebratory fireworks lit the Havana sky as the clock ticked midnight early Monday, but no photos graced its newspapers.
Even the ubiquitous Reflections by the Commander in Chief—the opinion columns Castro started in March—have ground to a halt. After churning out 37 articles—sometimes several a week—Castro has not penned a new one since last Tuesday.
Last week, he failed to call in to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s weekly TV show, and his niece Mariela was quoted as saying ``the concern that we all had about losing our leader is now closer to us.’‘
Mexico’s most influential newspaper, Reforma, reported Monday that Castro had several surgeries in the past few weeks in an attempt to stave off a potentially fatal blood infection. Castro, the paper said, has lost a lot of weight and no longer wishes to receive visitors.
Last July the Cuban government announced that Castro had undergone surgery to stop intestinal bleeding and had delegated power to his brother, Raúl. Fidel Castro was last seen in a video on June 5, when he gave a long rambling interview to Cuban TV reporter Randy Alonso.
“Reforma would not take those kinds of risks unless it had real sources,’’ said Miami-Dade Democratic Party chairman Joe Garcia, former head of the Cuban American National Foundation. ``But it’s like debating whether the new year starts at 12:59 or 1 a.m. It has already happened. The future of Cuba does not depend on an 80-year-old man in the hospital or his little brother.”