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Fidel Castro Turns 86

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro attends the closing ceremony of the sixth Cuban Communist Party (PCC) congress in Havana in this April 19, 2011 file photo.
Former Cuban president Fidel Castro turns 86 Monday, far from the limelight in the country he led for nearly 50 years.

The ailing Castro has been keeping a low profile, making his last public appearance, with visiting Pope Benedict XVI, in March.

State media have not published one of his occasional opinion columns - called "reflections" - since June, and the latest writings drew attention for their brevity and choice of topics, such as yoga and edible plants.

Castro remains popular to many in Cuba, where previous absences have fueled questions about his health. He temporarily ceded power to his brother, Raul, in 2006 while suffering from an intestinal illness, before fully transferring power in 2008.

Last year, Cuba celebrated Castro's birthday with concerts, art exhibits and other events in his honor, but he did not attend.