HAVANA – Cuban Vice-President Otto Rivero reported this week that Fidel Castro is “permanently” taking part in the political activities of the country and is participating in top-level decision-making. The announcement prompted speculation that Castro is planning to make a full return to power soon.
“Fidel has not disappeared,” Rivero told reporters. “We have him here permanently.
He’s participating in the decisions that are his responsibility to take part in.”
However, Castro, who has been slowly recovering from an undisclosed but serious illness since last July, did not appear in public at the huge May Day parade this week in Havana.
The iconic Cuban leader turned over power provisionally to his younger brother Raul after undergoing emergency intestinal surgery July 31 and since then has been seen only sporadically in specially released videotapes and photographs while he recovers.
Speculation about Castro’s possible public reappearance increased last weekend after Bolivian President Evo Morales said that the Cuban leader might reassume the communist island’s presidency this week.
“I’m sure that on May 1, comrade Fidel is going to get back to governing Cuba and Latin America,” said Morales, one of Havana’s closest allies.
Rivero said that the most recent images of Castro released by the island’s media last week during a meeting with a high-level Chinese delegation were a “very important and encouraging” sign.
“Our people felt very happy to see a recovered Fidel. In the pictures … the change and the transformation (for the better) that have occurred (in him) were visible,” Rivero said, emphasizing the “consistent and very dignified” attitude and the “spirit of high responsibility” displayed by the Cuban people during Castro’s convalescence.
The precise nature of Castro’s health problem has remained a state secret ever since he became ill, but observers abroad have speculated in the foreign press that he has been suffering from diverticulitis, cancer and/or several other serious maladies.
Rivero heads the department that is managing the so-called “Battle of Ideas,” the strategy launched by Castro in 2000 to demand that Washington, D.C. return Cuban child Elian González, rescued from a raft off of Florida, to Cuba.
After a prolonged and bitter international custody battle, the boy was returned to the island and the Battle of Ideas was pursued as a campaign to push projects linked with the promotion of the Cuban Revolution, including education, health care and culture.
Since the first project launched within the framework of the initiative, the so-called “Anti-imperialistic Stage” erected in front of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana in 2000, the Battle of Ideas has included 200 programs and more than 7,000 other projects, according to the official count.