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Castro says he thought death was beckoning last year PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 26 January 2008

Agence France-Presse . Havana

Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro disclosed to Cuba's official media Thursday that when he was taken gravely ill 18 months ago, he thought he was dying.

The health of Cuba's leader is considered a security issue and few details about his gastrointestinal surgery and recovery process have been made public to Cubans – most of whom have known no other leader in their lifetimes.

But 'when I took seriously ill the night of July 26 and early morning of July 27, I thought it would be the end,' Castro wrote in an editorial in Granma, the Cuban Communist Party newspaper.

'As the physicians fought to save my life, the Council of State secretary read the text back to me at my request and I dictated the arrangements to be made,' added Castro, now 81. Four days after taking ill Castro, who took power as a young lawyer in 1959, handed over the reins of Cuba's government temporarily to his brother Raul Castro, the regime's number two, now acting president and defence chief.

Interim president Raul Castro said January 20 the National Assembly would elect Cuba's next president February 24, amid speculation Fidel Castro might not be its choice for the first time in almost five decades. Fidel Castro was among 614 uncontested candidates for the legislature in the uncontested January elections which will name 31 lawmakers to the Council of State that chooses the president.

'It's obvious that (Fidel Castro) has been very successful in the recovery process, but he has the right to say yes or no' to whether he will stay on as president, if reelected in February, Cuba's National Assembly speaker Ricardo Alarcon told The New York Times Wednesday.

Cubans for months have been anxious for news on whether Fidel Castro would resume power or formally step aside. Some speculate Raul Castro might become president on a permanent basis or that another top regime official might move up the ladder technically ending Fidel Castro's official dominance of the regime. Few, however, doubt Fidel would remain influential in the latter case.

While Castro appears to be in better health than a year ago, many Cuba-watchers believe he will not be able to resume the full, wide-ranging powers he used to wield.

Some analysts believe he might continue to remain head of state on paper, essentially acting as a kind of behind-the-scenes guardian of the 1959 revolution while leaving other top communist officials to deal with the day-to-day work. Others do not rule out the possibility he could step aside before or on February 24.

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