Castro says he's lost 41 pounds since surgery, recovery is 'satisfactory'

Tuesday, September 5th 2006, 5:31 am
By: News On 6

HAVANA (AP) _ Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro said in a statement released Tuesday that he's lost more than 41 pounds in more than a month since his intestinal surgery but the ``most critical moment'' is already behind him.

``Today I am recovering at a satisfactory rhythm,'' said the statement published in the Communist Party daily Granma, which was accompanied by new photographs of a gaunt-looking Castro.

The 80-year-old Castro is easily over 6 feet tall and in recent years has been on the thin side. He looked especially thin at his last public appearance before he fell ill, at a July 26 speech in eastern Cuba marking the start of his revolution.

He said he just recently had the last stitches from his surgery removed, following 34 days of convalescence. ``I can affirm that the most critical moment has been left behind,'' his statement said.

It was accompanied by seven different photographs of Castro during his convalescence, several of them repeated on Granma newspaper's Web site in larger versions. In all of them, Castro is seated and wearing either short-sleeved navy blue or light-blue pajamas. In several of the photos, he is reading or writing.

Most of the pictures show him from the waist up, although one shows his whole body as he sits in a rocking chair, wearing slippers and reading.

In another, Castro holds up a broadsheet proof of a book written from a series of interviews he gave to French journalist Ignacio Ramonet, which he said he was reviewing during his recovery.

``But because of that, I have not failed to strictly follow my duties as a disciplined patient,'' he added.

``In the coming days, I will be receiving distinguished visitors,'' Castro said, apparently referring to some of the heads of state and government who will be traveling to the summit of nonaligned nations next week.

The government has not announced whether Castro, or his younger brother Raul _ who is serving as Cuba's provisional president during the elder sibling's recovery _ will represent the country during the Sept. 11-16 gathering.

``This doesn't mean that every activity will be immediately accompanied by video or photographic images, although news will be provided of every one,'' the statement said.

``All of us must understand that it is not convenient to systematically offer information, nor give out images of my health situation,'' Castro added. ``All of us must also understand realistically that the complete recovery time, whether we like it or not, will be prolonged.

``At this moment I am not in a hurry, and no one should be in a hurry. The country is marching and moving ahead,'' he said.

Castro said July 31 that he had undergone an emergency intestinal operation and was temporarily ceding his powers as head of the government and the Communist Party to his 75-year-old brother, Raul, the defense minister.

The nature of his surgery and his specific ailment have been treated as a state secret. It is the first time in 47 years of rule that Castro has stepped aside, even temporarily.