Saturday, September 22, 2007

President Fidel Castro Talks on Cuba Television

Cuba: Lucid Castro talks on Cuba television

Sat. September 22, 2007 04:53 pm.
By Zainab Osman

(SomaliNet) Largely alert and lucid, Fidel Castro made a surprise appearance on a television news program Friday evening in a prerecorded hourlong interview, speaking about an essay he wrote earlier this week accusing the U.S. of threatening the global economy.

His appearance was unusual because Castro has mostly been out of the public eye since he underwent emergency intestinal surgery 14 months ago. The government has at times shown photographs and video of Castro, but his exact illness and prognosis are secrets. Castro's only other long television interview was in early June.

During Friday's interview, Castro's voice remained weak. But he maintained his signature ability for rambling discourse, as well as animated gestures, including once slapping an object that was off screen.

On a few occasions, the interviewer had to coach and prompt Castro, including correcting Castro on the number of "Reflections" columns -- 45 -- he has written during his illness. He seemed to be at a loss for words at points but became energized as time went along.

Castro's appearance comes as rumors about his demise have reached a fever pitch in the Cuban exile community in South Florida, but his appearance Friday suggested he is slowly gaining strength during a more than yearlong convalescence.

"They say I was dying and 'if I die' and I will die the day after tomorrow," Castro said. "Who knows what they know?"

The interview also comes on the heels of an earlier column Castro wrote for Cuba's daily newspaper that had raised concerns in the international community about his lucidity.

In that column, Castro advanced an extremist theory that a U.S. conspiracy was concealing the truth behind the Sept. 11 attacks, including the presence of gold bars in the basement of the World Trade Center.

In the most recent essay, which served as the basis for Friday's interview, Castro acknowledged that controversy in the first sentence but then went on to write more than 5,300 words about how "the world is threatened by devastating economic crisis," for which the United States is to blame.

Displaying no sign of his trademark green fatigues, Castro wore a red Adidas athletic jacket, trimmed with blue and white, with "Castro" written over the left breast. Castro noted that the euro was trading at $1.41 and that the price of petroleum is $84 a barrel, proof that the interview was recorded earlier Friday.

During the interview, Castro displayed several thick books that he indicated he had been reading, including former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's just-published "The Age of Turbulence" and a book about former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He also waved a copy of "The Reagan Diaries" up to his shoulder in a show of fitness and joked, "This book is heavy. It has to be weighed in tons."

Castro opened the book, and inside the cover were handwritten notes, apparently Castro's.

In another show of ability, Castro also read lengthy passages aloud from the Greenspan book, but he didn't use the actual book. Instead, he read from a separately prepared printout with easier-to-read type.

Castro also spoke of how America's creation of the atomic bomb during World War II caused hundreds of thousands of deaths of defenseless Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, another theme he had addressed in his latest column.

"It was an act of terror," Castro said.

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