Castro’s health is always a state secret

February 19th, 2008 - 5:18 pm ICT by admin  

Havana, Feb 19 (DPA) The health of Cuban leader Fidel Castro has always been a state secret in the small island country, where he handed over power to his brother in August 2006 following an operation for intestinal bleeding. On Wednesday morning, he made his departure from power officially, resigning as president of Cuba and its military commander, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, Granma, reported.

Although Castro himself has referred to his illness on several occasions since then, he has not been seen in public since 2006, although video footage was occasionally released when his closest friends in Latin America such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would visit him.

Little was known of his reported ailments, and hypotheses were often amplified within the large community of exiled Cubans in Miami, Florida, just 160 km away from the Caribbean island that Castro ruled with an iron fist for nearly half a century.

In January, Castro made the unusual revelation that he thought he was going to die when he fell seriously ill on July 26, 2006.

“When I fell ill on the night of the 26th and the early hours of the 27th I thought it would be the end,” Castro wrote in a piece published by the dailies Granma and Juventud Rebelde.

The revelation triggered some questions about whether he would go through with his candidacy for another term when Cubans hold National Assembly elections Sunday.

On July 31, 2006 Castro “temporarily” gave up power to his brother, Raul, and has not returned to government or been seen in public since, although he has met several distinguished guests.

Castro, 81, explained in January the details of the power transfer and recalled that, at the time he fell ill, he was revising the book “Fidel Castro: My Life: A Spoken Autobiography”, by Spanish-born journalist Ignacio Ramonet.

The Cuban leader said was barely sleeping at all at the time he became sick.

The hospital where he was treated in 2006 exercised strict security measures, barring employees from leaving at shift change in the early days.

The secrecy prompted speculation that reports of his illness could actually mean he was already dead.

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