HAVANA – Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said he doesn't even suffer from headaches in an article he published in state-media Monday criticizing those who spread rumors he was on his death bed.
The article, ironically titled "Fidel is Dying," is accompanied by photos taken by son Alex Castro that show the revolutionary icon standing outside near some trees wearing a checked shirt and cowboy hat, including one in which he is seen reading Friday's copy of the Communist Party newspaper Granma.
Castro is leaning against a cane in the photos and he looks every bit his 86 years, but his eyes are sharp and his expression determined as he gestures with his left hand.
"I don't even remember what a headache feels like," Castro claims in the article, adding that he was releasing the photos to show "how dishonest" the rumor mongers have been.
Cubans reacted with a mix of support and cynicism.
"He looks well to me and the truth is I'm happy, but one day he will die because at his age he's on borrowed time," said Camilo Fuentes, a 67-year-old Havana resident.
"I think it is a big show," said Carina Rojo, a 57-year-old retiree. "People don't care anymore ... there is much more interest in these things outside the country."
Castro's article was published on the state-run Cubadebate Web site early Monday, and in virtually all other state-media later in the day. It is the latest evidence the former Cuban president is alive and seemingly well after more than a week of intense speculation he was seriously ill.
Twitter and other social media sites have been abuzz with claims of Castro's demise.
On Sunday, a visiting former Venezuelan vice president released a photo of a meeting he said he had the previous day with Castro, and a hotel manager also present for part of the meeting claimed Castro's health was "magnificent."
In the article Monday, Castro says he has been dealing with disinformation about Cuba since the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.
He criticized Western media he said are in the pocket of the rich, and singled out Spain's ABC newspaper for publishing comments by a Venezuelan doctor who claimed to have information that Castro had suffered a stroke and had weeks to live.
Castro has been out of the public eye since March, when he received visiting Pope Benedict XVI. He also stopped writing his once constant opinion pieces, called "Reflections," the last of which was published in June.
Former Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua said he met with Castro for five hours and showed The Associated Press photos of the encounter, quashing persistent rumors that the former Cuban leader was on his deathbed or had suffered a massive stroke.
Jaua also confirmed that Castro personally accompanied him to the Hotel Nacional after their encounter Saturday, in which they talked about politics, history, culture and tourism.
"He had the courtesy of bringing me to the hotel," Jaua said Sunday, adding that Castro looked "very well."
In the article Monday, Castro explains that he chose to stop the opinion pieces of his own accord, not because he was too sick to continue them.
"I stopped publishing Reflections because it was really not my role to take up pages in our press which are needed for other work the country requires," he wrote.
Castro stepped down in 2006 following a severe illness, handing power to his brother Raul.
Anne-Marie Garcia contributed to this report.
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