Most-recent photos show a gaunt Castro

September 06, 2006|By Gary Marx | Gary Marx,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

HAVANA -- Cuban leader Fidel Castro acknowledged yesterday that he has lost 41 pounds since undergoing intestinal surgery more than a month ago and reiterated that he faces a lengthy convalescence.

But the 80-year-old leader said "the most critical moment" of his health crisis has passed. He vowed to meet with visiting dignitaries in the next few days, apparently referring to the 14th summit of nonaligned nations that opens in Havana next week.

"Today, I recover at a satisfactory pace," Castro said in a statement in the Communist Party newspaper Granma. "We all must also understand, with realism, that the duration of a complete recovery, whether we want it or not, will be prolonged."

The short statement was accompanied by seven photos of a pajama-clad Castro, who looks gaunt and is shown reading in a rocking chair in one image.

Analysts say the photographs along with previous video and photographic images of Castro have been released by the state-controlled news media and reveal little about his condition.

On July 31, when Castro announced he had undergone surgery and temporarily ceded power to his brother Raul, the Cuban leader said he would withhold details about his illness and recuperation because the matter was a state secret.

Since then, some analysts have speculated Castro suffers from a terminal illness such as cancer; others believe he has a far less serious ailment and might return to power.

Diplomats and analysts are looking forward to the start Monday of the nonaligned summit to provide further clues about Castro's health and the pecking order among Cuba's governing elite.

The last time the summit was held in Havana was 1979, and Castro is expected to make every effort to meet with world leaders and address the visiting delegations during the six-day event.

Gary Marx writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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