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Friday, August 4th 2006

Just How Sick Is Castro?

With no sign of him or his brother for days, it is making everyone wonder. If you don’t know, Castro turned over power to his brother for a brief period in order to go under the knife for an intestinal bleeding condition. Speculation on his health is nothing new.

Talk of Castro‘s mortality was taboo until June 23, 2001, when he fainted during a speech in the sun. Although Castro quickly recovered, many Cubans understood for the first time that their leader would eventually die.

Castro shattered a kneecap and broke an arm when he fell after a speech on Oct. 20, 2004, but laughed off rumors about his health, most recently a 2005 report he had Parkinson‘s disease.

You have to suspect that they wouldn’t be leading their populace to dissappointment, by claiming he’s recovering nicely, if he was already dead or on his way too it. Still, not everyone is convinced that he’s okay.

Anne Louise Bardach, author of the best-selling book Cuba Confidential, is one who believes Castro’s condition is more serious than the official line indicates. She says the timing of the announcement – how it was handled in Havana post-surgery as opposed to pre-surgery – says a lot. She also believes that when Castro dies, the world won’t know about it until days later, when the succession has been put in place.

Other theories arise in the same article.

But Maria Werlau, executive director of the Cuba Archive project that documents human rights abuses in Cuba, is convinced the exercise is an elaborate ruse.

“Castro has a long record of turning weakness into strength and I think he’s doing it again,” says Werlau, the daughter of a Cuban exile killed in the Bay of Pigs fiasco. “Castro knew his 80th birthday was going to attract a lot of negative publicity, but in handing over to Raul and ordering his birthday celebrations delayed to December, he’s diverted all the negative attention. It’s very clever: he’s managed to use his mortality as a weapon.” Werlau also believes it’s a strategy that will allow Castro to determine who in Cuba remains loyal to him, a way “to gauge his control internally and then come back stronger than ever”.