Venezuelan media sources said that Fidel Castro’s sister denied rumours that the former Cuban leader suffered a massive stroke and was on the brink of death. On Friday, the American Spanish-language newspaper Nuevo Herald quoted Venezuelan doctor Jose Marquina as saying that Castro suffered a “massive embolism of the right cerebral artery” and had trouble eating, speaking, or recognising people. Juanita Castro, who resides in Miami, said that reports of her brother’s condition were “absurd” rumours. Earlier, Castro’s son, Alex, said that his father’s health was good, and he was “going about his daily life, reading extensively”.
Castro, who ruled the communist island for about 50 years, handed over the presidency to his younger brother Raúl in 2008. Rumours about his deteriorating health circulated on and off for years, but intensified after Castro failed to congratulate Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frías on his re-election in October. On 11 October, Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda said that Castro’s death was imminent. The 86-year-old Cuban revolutionary leader last appeared in public in March, when he met visiting Pope Benedict XVI. Castro also stopped writing his essays, dubbed Reflections, in the local media in June. However, on Wednesday, Cuban state media circulated a congratulatory letter to the graduates of a Cuban medical school purportedly written and signed by Castro. So far, the Cuban authorities haven’t made any official statements on Castro’s condition.
20 October 2012