Hold­ing on

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By MARC FRANK in Ha­vana Reuters

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.

Fidel Cas­tro

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