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