Posted on Tue, Jun. 05, 2007
Castro talks about past, not Cuba's future
BY NANCY SAN MARTIN
Fidel Castro reminisced about old times in Vietnam but offered no comment on his own country in a televised chat Tuesday -- the first lengthy look at the Cuban leader 10 months after surgery forced him to cede power.
Castro, 80, credited a better diet for his improving health and joked that a 70-year-old Japanese man recently climbed Mt. Everest. But he then added an ominous note: ``There are dangers that threaten the health of a human being. . . . I don't want to disappoint.''
His face seemed more filled out than in recent photographs, and he smiled often but spoke slowly and in short phrases, slurring his words at times and drawing labored breaths. The interview appeared to have taken place in the same room as his April meeting with a Chinese delegation -- a room the Beijing media said was in a hospital.
Castro mentioned twice that he had been in an intensive care unit recently but gave no details and said he had been ''doing what I'm supposed to'' to regain his health.
But he provided no hint on whether he planned to return to power and made no mention of his brother Raúl, who assumed most of Castro's powers July 31 after he underwent surgery for what is now widely believed to be diverticulitis, an intestinal condition that can lead to fatal bleeding.
''This confirms for me that the succession has taken place,'' said Andy Gómez, a senior fellow at University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. ``This is all part of a strategic plan by the new leadership to show the Cuban people and the international community that Castro is no longer capable of running the country.
''It shows that he is not involved in the day-to-day activities and hasn't been for a while,'' Gómez said. ``He's living in the past, rather than preparing for the future.''
Castro spent most of the 50-minute ''conversation'' with Randy Alonso, host of the nightly news program Round Table, recounting his weekend visit by Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nong Duc Manh. He became animated as he recalled a visit to Vietnam when it was at war with the United States.
He spent about 40 minutes describing the destruction caused by the war and slowly rattling off a string of facts about modern-day Vietnam that ranged from its rice and coffee harvest figures to the number of its modern toilets.
He remained seated throughout the interview, wearing an Adidas track suit in Cuba's red, white and blue colors and black sneakers. The cameras showed close-ups of his head, hands and feet, but no full-body views.
After Alonso commented that Castro did not appear to have difficulty reading from a copy of Granma newspaper, Castro joked that his eyesight was indeed improving. ``I used to wear glasses. I had myopia. But myopia goes away with the passing of years. And the first time [a doctor] told me my myopia was going away, I asked him: Does that mean I'm growing younger?''
And while there has never been any official and detailed version of his illness, Castro claimed the public knows enough. ''They say [my health] is a state secret; what state secret? I said very clearly where things stood,'' he said.
Translator Renato Perez contributed to this report.