Fidel Castro Releases Statement Saying Health Is Better

A statement signed by Fidel Castro sought to reassure Cubans Wednesday that the 80-year-old leader was recovering well from difficult surgery, saying his weight was stable and he was eating solid foods after months of intravenous feeding.

In the most detailed assessment of Castro's health since shortly after he fell ill almost 10 months ago, the statement said: "It wasn't just one operation, but various. Initially it wasn't successful and that had a bearing on my prolonged recuperation."

The message, sent by e-mail to foreign journalists and expected to be published in state newspapers Thursday, did not say when Castro might appear in public again or retake Cuba's presidency. It also said Castro was now taking all medicines orally.

Castro shocked Cuba in July when he announced that he had undergone intestinal surgery and was ceding power to his 75-year-old brother Raul, the defense minister. He has not been seen in public since and his condition and exact ailment have been state secrets, though top officials have insisted he is recuperating steadily.

A January story in the Spanish newspaper El Pais described Castro as being in "very grave" condition after at least three failed operations. It was denied by the Cuban government.

"I tell everyone simply that I am getting better and maintain a stable weight of about 80 kilograms (176 pounds)," Wednesday's statement said, adding that the greatest risks to Castro now are age and the effects of not taking proper care of his health over the years.

"No danger is greater than those related to age and health, which I abused in risky times," the statement said.

The statement said that for weeks after Castro stepped down, Cubans and foreigners spoke about a date he might appear reappear "with my olive-green uniform."

Castro has been seen wearing a track suit in photographs and videos released in state media.

The comments on his health came in the second half of a statement about food production. There have been 11 written communiques signed by Castro in recent weeks, most of them lashing out at U.S.-backed plans to use food crops to produce biofuels.

"For now, I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, reflecting and writing about questions that I judge of certain importance and transcendence," the latest one said. "I have a lot more material to go."

There had been widespread expectation on the island that Castro would appear for delayed 80th birthday celebrations in his honor, including a major military parade, in early December, and then again on May 1 for the annual workers parade of hundreds of thousands of people. His loyalists were sorely disappointed both times.

Two weeks after he first fell ill, Cubans received a sober greeting saying Castro faced a long recovery from surgery, and warning they should be prepared for "adverse news."

"To affirm that the recovery period will take a short time and that there is no risk would be absolutely incorrect," that statement said.

In an apparent reference to those earlier words, Wednesday's statement said that "my compatriots don't like having me explain on more than one occasion that the recovery is not free of risks."