Thursday, May 23, 2024

Castro breaks silence to praise Obama

Reuters/Bdnews24 . Havana
Cuba’s Fidel Castro praised the US president, Barack Obama, on Wednesday for his ‘noble intentions’ but said in his first opinion column in five weeks that the new American leader had many questions to answer.
President Raul Castro dismissed rumours that his older brother Fidel Castro was at death’s door, saying on Wednesday he was mentally and physically active despite a long illness that has kept him out of public view.
Speculation had been rising that the ailing 82-year-old was in serious condition after he failed to attend celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution that put him in power on January 1, 1959 and stopped publishing in mid-December what had been a steady stream of newspaper columns.
Fidel Castro also had not received recent visiting heads of state, but on Wednesday he met with Argentine president Cristina Fernandez, who said they talked for more than an hour, mostly about new US president Barack Obama.
‘He spent time with the president, he is exercising, thinking a lot, reading a lot, assisting me and helping,’ Raul Castro said. ‘Soon I’m going to make a trip to Europe. Do you think I could leave from here if Fidel was gravely ill?’
Castro did not disclose the reason that he had not written a column, or ‘reflection’ as he calls them, since December 15, after averaging nine a month in 2008.
He spoke of his admiration for Obama, who took office on Tuesday, replacing George W Bush, and is the United States’ first black president.
‘I expressed that personally I had not the least doubt of the honesty with which Obama, the 11th president since January 1, 1959, expressed his ideas, but in spite of his noble intentions there remained many questions to answer,’ he said.
 One question, Castro said, was ‘how can a wasteful and consumerist system par excellence preserve the environment?’
Obama has said he wants to move toward normalisation of US-Cuba relations but would not eliminate the 46-year-old US trade embargo against the communist-led island.
Castro’s column, published on state-run Internet site www.cubadebate.cu, came out a few hours after his younger brother, president Raul Castro, denied rumours that Fidel Castro’s health was worsening.
‘He is exercising, thinking a lot, reading a lot, assisting me and helping,’ Raul Castro said. ‘Soon I’m going to make a trip to Europe. Do you think I could leave from here if Fidel was gravely ill?’
The elder Castro has been seen only in a few videos and photos since undergoing intestinal surgery in July 2006 from which he never fully recovered.
But he has maintained a public profile through his writings, and the frequency of his columns has become an informal barometer of his health among Castro watchers.
Raul Castro provisionally took power after the surgery, then officially became president in February when his brother said he was not well enough to continue.
Fernandez said at the Havana airport that Castro wore a blue jogging suit during their meeting and told her he had followed Obama’s inauguration on television.
‘With much passion, with much conviction, he told me he’s a sincere man, believes absolutely in everything he’s saying, he has many good ideas and a very good history,’ Fernandez said.

Courtesy: newagebd.com

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