Ail­ing Cas­tro reap­pears on TV

Ex-leader ex­pounds on Iran, North Korea but not Cuba-U.S. re­la­tions

Austin American-Statesman - - TUESDAYBRIEFING -

MEX­ICO CITY — Fidel Cas­tro re­turned to Cuban tele­vi­sion Mon­day night, his first ma­jor ap­pear­ance in years. The ag­ing, ail­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader held forth on the dangers of pos­si­ble nu­clear con­fronta­tions in Iran and the Korean penin­sula.

He looked pretty good. Wear­ing a plaid shirt un­der a blue-gray track suit, the 83-year-old Cas­tro spoke slowly but clearly. Some­times he seemed out of breath, but he kept up a steady pace.

The ap­pear­ance on “Mesa Re­donda” (“Round Ta­ble”) was nei­ther a real in­ter­view nor a speech, but rather a kind of a lec­ture, with a jour­nal­ist as his prop. Cas­tro sat be­hind a desk and oc­ca­sion­ally used notes. He was thin but not gaunt.

“Cas­tro may not re­turn to power in Cuba, but he wants the world to know he’s not fin­ished,” said Anya Laun­dau French of the U.S.-Cuba Pol­icy Ini­tia­tive at the New Amer­ica Fidel Cas­tro dis­cussed cur­rent events on TV Mon­day night, his first ma­jor tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ance in years. Foun­da­tion. “For U.S. pol­i­cy­mak­ers stub­bornly hold­ing out for a ‘bi­o­log­i­cal so­lu­tion’ to our Cuba pol­icy, Fidel Cas­tro dashed those hopes tonight.”

Cas­tro did not ad­dress the decades­long chasm be­tween his coun­try and the United States or the chal­lenges fac­ing Cuba. In­stead he fo­cused on re­la­tions be­tween the U.S. and both Iran and North Korea.

“There are 20 mil­lion Ira­ni­ans with mil­i­tary train­ing,” he warned, and he said he imag­ined that the “Korean penin­sula will be a sea of flames.”

As Cas­tro ad­dressed his peo­ple, Cuban of­fi­cials qui­etly re­leased seven po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers and put them and their fam­i­lies aboard a flight to Madrid — part of an agree­ment last week to free dozens of such pris­on­ers.

“He talked about all the prob­lems of the world and not the prob­lems in Cuba or what has been go­ing on with the po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers,” said Andy Gomez of the In­sti­tute for Cuban and Cuban Amer­i­can Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­sity of Mi­ami. “He wanted to take the at­ten­tion away from Cuba.”

The Cuban dic­ta­tor largely dis­ap­peared from pub­lic view in July 2006 af­ter suf­fer­ing a se­ri­ous in­testi­nal ill­ness. He had not been in­ter­viewed on TV since 2007, when he ap­peared weak and dis­tant.

Alex Cas­tro

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