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Fidel Castro makes rare TV appearance

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-07-13

Cuba's ailing revolutionary leader Fidel Castro reappeared on television sets across the country on Monday for the first time in nearly a year.

AFP - Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro appeared on state-run television for the first time in nearly a year on Monday, looking alert and healthy but with a wavering voice that betrayed his advanced age.

Castro, 83, appeared animated as he discussed for an hour his views on the Middle East and North Korea in a recorded interview with the anchor of the "Round Table" news and analysis show.

The interview marks something of a return to form for Castro, who turns 84 next month.

Wearing a blue jacket and a checkered shirt, Castro sat at a small desk in an undisclosed location for the interview. A portrait of Cuban independence hero Jose Marti hung in the background.

In the interview, the Cuban revolutionary spoke of an "imminent" US and Israeli attack on Iran, and blamed the United States for secretly sinking a South Korean warship in March, then accusing North Korea of being behind the incident.

Castro has made only sporadic appearances -- either on television or in public -- since emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006 drove him to hand power to his younger brother Raul.

Castro's voice could be heard from television sets in homes along the narrow streets of Old Havana. In bars where there were no tourists, workers switched to watch El Comandante.

"We'll have Fidel for a long time," said housewife Xurien Cala, 38. "He's a bit thin. We haven't seen him in movement for a long time," she told AFP.

The Monday interview appeared to be taped, as were two previous Castro appearances on the program in June and September 2007. Castro was last seen on local TV in August 2009, where he was filmed at home in an animated conversation with law students from Venezuela's University of Carabobo.

The TV interview was widely promoted in state media, including front-page announcements in the Communist Party mouthpiece Granma.

Political columns in Fidel Castro's name are published regularly in state media, but the columns have focused for the past year on international affairs and largely ignored domestic politics.

Fidel Castro was photographed at a public function at a science center on Wednesday, believed to be his first public outing since December, when he left his residence to meet visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Five photos were published over the weekend of Castro wearing a track suit -- his customary attire since relinquishing the presidency -- greeting well-wishers at Havana's National Center for Scientific Investigation.

The bout of Castro appearances comes at a delicate time politically for Cuba as it begins releasing dissidents under a landmark deal brokered with the Catholic Church last week.

If all 52 activists are freed as the government has promised, it would be the largest prisoner release of Raul Castro's tenure.

Guerrilla revolutionary and communist idol, Castro held out against history when he turned tiny Cuba into a thorn in the paw of the mighty capitalist United States.

Famed for his rumpled olive fatigues, straggly beard and the cigars he reluctantly gave up for his health, he kept a tight clamp on dissent at home while defining himself abroad with his defiance of Washington.

Castro and a band of followers launched their revolt in earnest on December 2, 1956 when they landed in southeastern Cuba on the ship Granma.

Twenty-five months later, against great odds, they ousted president Fulgencio Batista and Castro was named prime minister.

After leading the Americas' only one-party communist country through nearly half of the 20th century and into the 21st, he still serves as first secretary of Cuba's Communist Party.


Date created : 2010-07-12

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