Fidel Castro Getting Better?

Friday, February 9th 2007, 6:46 am
By: News On 6

HAVANA (AP) _ Fidel Castro's older brother Ramon said Friday the ailing Cuban leader is recovering well from surgery six months ago, joining his other brother Raul in a growing number of upbeat assessments.

``He is doing very well, protected by the socialist saints!'' a beaming 82-year-old Ramon said after lunch with Florida cattleman John Parke Wright, a good friend and frequent visitor to the island.

``Fidel is recovering well,'' added Ramon, who looks remarkably like Fidel _ down to the now-wispy white beard. ``All of us brothers are very resilient.''

Ramon spent his life in agriculture and ranching and never held any major government positions.

Ramon Castro's positive assessment came one day after his 75-year-old brother Raul, the defense minister and acting president, told reporters of 80-year-old Fidel: ``He's getting better each day.''

He also said Fidel was exercising in brief comments to the news media at the opening of an international book fair. ``He has a telephone at his side and uses it a lot.''

Reporters had less luck earlier Friday getting a statement about Fidel's health from his son, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart _ known as ``Fidelito'' _ who spoke at an international economics conference in Havana. He briefly greeted reporters and did not discuss his father before leaving.

Fidel's health condition and his exact ailment are state secrets.

The rebel leader stunned the nation on July 31 when he announced he had undergone intestinal surgery and was provisionally ceding power to Raul _ long his constitutionally designated successor.

Cuban officials have denied past U.S. government reports that Fidel was suffering from cancer. A Spanish newspaper reported last month that the leader had diverticular disease, a weakening of the walls of the colon common in older people, and was in ``grave'' condition.

Evidently seeking to knock down pessimistic reports about Fidel's health, the communist government on Jan. 30 released a new video of the leader that showed him looking as if he had gained strength and weight.

In the video, Fidel at one point was seen standing on his own during a visit by good friend and political ally President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Fidel had looked far more gaunt and pale in a video released by the government in late October.

In recent days, Chavez and some Cuban officials have made encouraging assessments about Fidel's health. Venezuela's ambassador to Cuba Ali Rodriguez Araque said earlier Thursday that Castro had resumed eating after a long period of being unable to ingest solid foods.