Fidel Castro turns 87, largely out of sight but not out of mind.
Fidel Castro turned 87 on Tuesday, largely out of sight but not out of mind, as Cuba moves on from his half-century rule and as some of his policies are reconsidered under the leadership of his younger brother, Raul.
The birthday of one of Latin America’s most iconic revolutionary figures has been a lowkey celebration in recent years. A choral concert in his honor at the Jose Marti national monument in Havana on Monday evening was the only official event planned.
Castro goes about his daily activities out of the public eye, and how much influence the retired leader still wields is unknown. He emerges every once in awhile to reassure his followers that he is very much around, frustrating those who wish he were not.
Castro has so far appeared in public three times this year: first, to vote in January in National Assembly elections and chat with local reporters; then, in February, to attend the new parliament’s opening session where his brother’s possible successor, 53- yearold Miguel Diaz- Canel, was named first vice-president; and more recently, to inaugurate a school near his home on the outskirts of Havana.
Photos of Castro meeting visiting dignitaries are occasionally published, as well as some of his writings, though far fewer than his once frequent “Reflections” on global topics.
The once-towering, broadshouldered man is now stooped. He has trouble walking, and his famed booming oratory has softened to a near whisper. It is a transformation that brought tears to two women interviewed for this story.
Still in good shape
Castro, now referred to as “the historic leader of the revolution”, lives with his wife in a modest home on the western outskirts of Havana, where he studies, writes and receives visitors.
Cubans who have seen Fidel up close on one of his occasional ventures away from home report that he remains lucid and in relatively good shape for a man who was once at death’s door. In 2006 he underwent repeated abdominal surgery and reportedly had part of his colon removed.
“He was old, but the same old Fidel, asking questions, citing statistics from last year and before, shuffling around, chuckling and talking with everyone,” said a worker at the Empresa Genetica Pecuaria Los Naranjos in Atemisa province, about 50 km west of Havana. “His mind was still amazing,” he said.
The worker, who asked that his name not be used, said Castro paid a surprise two-hour visit to the company on April 26, which raises and improves livestock such as goats, turkeys and buffalo.