Havana: Fidel Castro has broken a long silence by granting an interview to a Venezuelan television station, his first since rumours began to spread that the former Cuban leader might be sick or near death. A top Cuban official said on Thursday that the revolutionary is in good health.
Photographs of the sit-down with a journalist from Venezolana de Television were posted on Cubadebate, a state-run website. The 85-year-old appears relaxed and healthy in the pictures, sitting in an easy chair and wearing a white jacket and green pants.
The website said the interview occurred on Tuesday in Havana, but it had not yet been broadcast and it was not immediately clear when it would be.
"I hate to inform those who are enjoying themselves by believing that Commandante Fidel has had a stroke that he is alive and kicking," the Venezuelan journalist who conducted the interview, Mario Silva, was quoted as saying on the website.
In Venezuela, Silva showed a collection of photos from the interview on his program "La Hojilla”, or "The Razor”, on Wednesday night, and said he expected the full interview to be broadcast in a day or two. The images showed he and Castro sharing a meal, talking and standing together, apparently as they said goodbye.
Cuban Parliament Chief Ricardo Alarcon also weighed in on the health rumours that have sprung up in recent weeks, saying Castro "is well and enjoying good health”.
"Fidel himself said it awhile ago: The day he dies nobody will believe it because they have killed him so many times," he added.
Castro has not appeared in public since a Communist Party summit in April, when he seemed unsteady and unusually frail. He has all but stopped writing his trademark opinion pieces, and didn`t make a statement or release a photograph on his birthday last month.
The silence has led to a fresh round of death rumours from Miami, propagated on exile radio and television stations and through social media sites such as Twitter. Castro`s health was even the subject of a computer virus embedded in a spam e-mail titled "Fidel is Dead”.
Castro stepped down temporarily, then permanently, in July 2006, handing power over to his brother Raul. He stayed out of the public eye for four years before bursting back on the scene in 2010. But after a flurry of appearances, the former Cuban leader went silent again.
The television interview would be Castro`s first this year, though photographs and video of him meeting with Chavez and other visiting dignitaries have been released.