Castro Signals Desire To Return To Public Role

HAVANA (AP) _ Fidel Castro signaled Thursday he is itching for a return to public life after eight months of illness that has kept him out of sight, lambasting U.S. biofuel policies in a front-page newspaper

Thursday, March 29th 2007, 7:50 am

By: News On 6

HAVANA (AP) _ Fidel Castro signaled Thursday he is itching for a return to public life after eight months of illness that has kept him out of sight, lambasting U.S. biofuel policies in a front-page newspaper editorial.

But Castro's scathing attack in the Communist Party daily left unanswered what role he will play in politics and government, and when he might appear again in public.

In his article, the 80-year-old revolutionary asserted that President Bush's support for using crops to produce ethanol for cars could deplete corn and other food stocks in developing nations, putting the lives of 3 billion people at risk worldwide.

``There are many other issues to be dealt with,'' Castro added at the end of the editorial, apparently promising more such missives.

Unlike several other written messages signed by Castro since he fell ill, this one did not seem aimed at dispelling rumors about his health and didn't even mention he has been sick.

Castro's future role has been the source of much speculation, especially in the last few months amid increasingly optimistic reports about his recovery from senior Cuban officials and family members.

Castro's condition and exact ailment remain a state secret, but he is widely believed to suffer from diverticular disease, a weakening of the walls of the colon that can cause sustained bleeding.

While some seem confident he will resume the presidential role he temporarily ceded to his brother Raul on July 31, others think it more likely he will take on a less physically demanding post as elder statesman, weighing in on international issues while Raul and a new collective leadership handle domestic affairs.

Castro ``no longer has the physical capacity to sustain his previous activity,'' said Manuel Cuesta Morua, a center-left Cuban intellectual and dissident. Before he fell ill, Castro was famous for his exhausting schedule, often staying up all night to entertain visiting foreign leaders and speaking extemporaneously on live television for hours.

``Because he cannot do it physically in the ``Mesa Redondas,'' this is his way of saying: 'I'm here!,''' Cuesta Morua added, referring to Castro's past frequent hours-long appearances on the government's nightly ``Round-table'' program.

Castro ceded his presidential functions to his 75-year-old brother, the defense minister, when disclosing he had undergone emergency intestinal surgery. He has not appeared in public since.

In the meantime, Raul Castro has run the nation at the head of a collective leadership named by his older brother, including Cabinet Secretary Carlos Lage and several other top Communist Party officials.

But it was clear from his article that Fidel Castro now wants his voice to be heard on international issues, especially when it comes to the environment.

Written with the apocalyptic tone he has traditionally adopted in the past to discuss the effects of U.S. policies on developing nations, there was no reason to doubt Castro was the author.

``The sinister idea of converting food into combustible was definitively established as the economic line of the foreign policy of the United States,'' Castro wrote of Bush's discussions of biofuels with U.S. automakers this week.

He noted that Cuba has also experimented with extracting ethanol from sugar cane, but said there could be disastrous consequences if rich nations imported key food crops such as corn from poor countries to help meet energy needs.

``Apply this recipe to the countries of the Third World and you will see how many people among the hungry masses of our planet will no longer consume corn,'' the article said.

In recent weeks, Bolivian President Evo Morales and several senior Cuban officials have indicated that Castro could soon take a more active role in public affairs and may even return to the presidency.

Morales said he expects to see Castro in public April 28 during a meeting in Havana with presidents celebrating a regional trade and cooperation pact.

Like many Cubans, Cuesta Morua said he expected that Castro will make a public appearance soon. ``We are going to see his face,'' he said. ``But we are going to read him more than we are going to see him.''

Castro's older brother, Ramon, said Wednesday that Fidel was doing very well but dodged questions about whether he would soon make a public appearance. ``He's in one piece,'' the 82-year-old Ramon said. ``These Castros are strong!''

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