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Cuba Denies Fidel Castro Is Dying


Cuba's interim leader, Raul Castro, has denied a U.S. media report that his brother, President Fidel Castro, is dying of cancer and will not return to power. Raul Castro said his brother is resting, but works each day a little more. Some Cuban experts in Miami say the long-time Communist president of the Caribbean island is gravely ill.

Ever since Cuban President Fidel Castro had intestinal surgery in late July and temporarily ceded power to his brother Raul, Cuban authorities have been adamant that their fiery leader will return to power.

At an anti-U.S. trade embargo rally last week, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said Fidel Castro is recovering, and will soon be back "leading the revolution."

A report in Time magazine this week cites unnamed U.S. officials saying many in the U.S. government are now convinced that the 80-year-old Castro has terminal cancer, and will never return to power.

In Communist Cuba, details of Fidel Castro's health are a state secret. One official quoted in the Time magazine report cautioned that intelligence reports could be wrong, and that there is no definitive proof.

Hans de Salas is a research associate at the University of Miami:

"It's all speculation at this point," said Hans de Salas. "We can neither verify, nor inherently doubt the possibility that Fidel Castro may be dying of terminal cancer. He is gravely ill, his recovery will take at least months, before he can make a public appearance. And, even then, it may be more of a long farewell than a true return to power."

Julio Cesar Alfonso is a Cuban doctor, now living in exile in Miami. He is also president of the non-profit organization, "Solidarity without Borders," a group founded by foreign medical doctors in the U.S. to help other doctors. He says Mr. Castro was diagnosed with intestinal cancer when he traveled to France in 1997, and has probably been receiving treatment for it. He said the cancer has now likely reached a terminal stage:

"Castro looks very sick," he said. "He has lost more than 40 kilos in 15 or 20 days. One can see that he acts like someone who is seriously ill. It's not the normal behavior of Castro, when he's conversing with people like [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez or other foreign dignitaries."

Several weeks ago photos were released of Mr. Castro meeting with President Chavez in a private setting.

The eyes of many experts are now on interim leader Raul Castro. The 75-year-old defense minister was long under the shadow of his older brother, but has been seeking a higher profile recently. Two weeks ago, he delivered his first nationally televised speech at the close of a trade union congress.