Fidel Castro Celebrates 86th Birthday: Cubans Unsure of his Health
Aug 13, 2012 12:24 PM EDT
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, revolutionary icon and former leader of Cuba, celebrates his 86th Birthday on Monday. Castro came to power in 1959 as Cuba's Prime Minister as the Communist Party of Cuba, a position he held for 17 year. Then in 1976, he became the communist nation's president till 2008.
In 2006, Castro underwent serious intestinal surgery, ever since, the 86-year-old has been suffering from health ailments, with as little as possible information on his condition leaked out to the public. The façade of his healthy disposition could not be upheld by the government or state news agency for long and finally in 2008 Castro relinquished power to his 81-year-old brother Raul Castro.
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Castro has been out of the public eye for some time now and his absence has stirred a curiosity among the nation regarding the leader's health, despite attempts by the State run media to present him as healthy and vital.
"In any moment it's going to come out in the news that he died. His character doesn't allow him to be silent - he always has to say something," tells one civilian, Danato Torres, to Reuters.
Castro has not been seen in any public appearance since June. He has, however, published a few essays in the State-run press.
In February, Castro launched his memoirs in Havana and then in March he was seen in a publicized meeting with the Pope Benedict on his tour through Cuba. At both events, the former Prime Minister appeared fragile and weak.
Now, with suspicions about his deteriorating health, Cubans find themselves is a predicament that might have a destabilizing effect on an already distraught nation. With both Castros in their 80s, there is no hint of an obvious successor.
"I think the majority of people are very worried about what will happen if Fidel and Raul die. There is nobody else with the stature to take the reins of the country," a Cuban teacher tells Reuters.
Fidel Castro is a public figure who has enjoyed great support from Fidelists or Fidel loyalists, who revere, trust and now miss their leader, but Castro has also experienced immense criticism and derision from the international community, who have accused him of violating human rights and running an authoritarian regime. But as a Reuters article say he "still holds a very special place in the hearts and minds of the Caribbean Island's 11 million residents, even as age and infirmity force him farther into the background."