Wi!! Castro vivan toujou!! 1/23/2009
New photo of Fidel Castro debunks deathbed rumors
BY FRANCES ROBLES
A picture of the ailing Fidel Castro was released Friday for the first time in two months.
The photograph taken Wednesday of Castro standing with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner appears to be part of a concerted effort by the Cuban government to dispel widespread rumors that the ailing former leader was on his deathbed.
No photos of him had been published since a November meeting with the president of China, and the once-prolific newspaper columnist went silent in December -- leading Cuba-watchers to believe his health had taken a turn for the worse.
But Castro met Wednesday with Fernández de Kirchner, wrote a news column Thursday and Friday, and now the Argentine government released a photograph of their meeting.
The picture shows a standing Castro looking sullen in a blue track suit as Fernández de Kirchner grasps his arm. The Argentine government news agency Télam said the picture was provided by Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Alejandro González Galeano, who brought them on Castro's request.
Castro broke his five-week silence Thursday, publishing his first newspaper column since December, and the first since last week's speculation that he was gravely ill.
His ''Reflections'' column published Friday alludes to the fact that the 82-year-old will not be around forever.
''I have had the rare privilege of observing events for so much time,'' he wrote. ``I receive information and I calmly ponder the events. I expect not to enjoy such a privilege in four years, when Obama's first presidential term has concluded.''
He said Obama has an intelligent and noble face.
He said he had cut back on the number of his columns, because he did not want to interfere with the work of Cuban Communist Party officials as they faced a worldwide economic crisis. ''I am fine,'' he wrote,
``but I insist, none of them should feel compromised by my Reflections, the seriousness of my illness or my death.''
On Thursday the government published a 317-word column about his 40-minute meeting with Fernández de Kirchner, who surprised Cuba-watchers Wednesday with news of a last-minute meeting with the ailing former dictator.
''When we spoke about the United States, I indicated the historic importance for Cuba that yesterday at noon, 10 presidents had passed over a period of 50 years, despite the immense power of that nation, they could not destroy the Cuban revolution,'' he wrote Thursday. ``I expressed that I do not personally harbor the slightest doubt about the honesty that Obama -- the 11th president since Jan. 1, 1959 -- expressed in his ideas, but despite his noble intentions, a lot of questions remain unanswered. As an example, I asked myself: How does a wasteful and consumerist society preserve the environment?''
Castro described his 40-minute meeting with Fernández as ''intense'' and ''interesting,'' as he expected.
''She is a person of profound convictions,'' he wrote. ``There were no debates.''
Castro's last column was published Dec. 15. On the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution on New Year's Day, his message to the Cuban people was a sentence long. The presidents of Panama and Ecuador visited Cuba recently and did not meet with Castro, leading to speculation and unconfirmed reports that the 82-year-old had taken a turn for the worse.
Experts wondered whether Castro had died, and his brother Raúl Castro was waiting until after Obama's inauguration to announce it.
Castro said he and Fernández talked about a variety of subjects, including Argentina's ability to produce food. He respects her, he said, because among other things, during her trips abroad she sets aside time to exercise.