Castro issues New Year’s message to Cubans

Posted On December 31, 2006

Filed under News Americas

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Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro says his recuperation will be a long process but “the battle is far from lost”.

President Castro broke his silence over his health in a statement issued to mark the 48th anniversary of Cuba’s revolution as well as the coming new year.

“I had always warned that my recuperation will be a prolonged process but the battle is far from lost,” he said in the statement.

Thanking Cubans for their “affection and support,” President Castro said he was cooperating as a “disciplined patient” with a dedicated team of doctors. He said he had not stopped being informed “of the most important events and information,” adding: “I discuss with my closest comrades subjects of vital importance that require cooperation”.

President Castro, who has deputised his brother Raul as interim leader, also praised the Cuban people for their “maturity and serenity” and the work of the Communist Party, the Government and the armed forces. It is the first message from President Castro addressed to the Cuban people since October 28, when he appeared weak in a video segment.

On Tuesday, a prominent Spanish doctor who examined President Castro said the leader was not suffering from a “malignant” illness and denied that he had cancer. President Castro, who is 80 and underwent an operation on July 27, is “in a process of slow but progressive recovery” and does not need further surgery, Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido told reporters in Madrid after returning from the Communist island state.

Dr Garcia Sabrido, who heads a surgery unit at a major Madrid hospital and is described by the Spanish media as a top gastroenterologist, described President Castro’s condition as “fine”.

The Cuban leader, who has been in power since 1959, has not been seen in public for five months and few medical updates have been made public since his reported intestinal surgery in July. In Cuba, President Castro’s health is being treated as a state secret.

But in the year marking the 48th anniversary of President Castro’s ousting of dictator Fulgencio Batista, his absence at a December 2 military parade stunned people and sparked speculation he might be seriously ill, or near death. On Friday he was absent from the National Assembly’s last session of the year, only the second time in 30 years that he had missed an assembly meeting.

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