Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has reportedly suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and is having trouble eating, speaking and recognizing people.

A Venezuelan physician who told El Nuevo Herald he has access to firsthand sources regarding the 86-year-old Castro, who was last seen in public in March.

“He suffered an embolic stroke and recognizes absolutely no one,” José Marquina told the newspaper. “The people with a condition of this nature have difficulty eating and, of course, they end up with total deficit in their neurologic capacities.”

Rumors on Castro’s health have circulated recently in social networks and the media, but speculations have intensified to the point that word spread that he had died.

Castro, whose revolution seized power in Cuba in 1959, left office in 2006 due to a life-threatening intestinal condition. His younger brother, Raul, now serves as president.

Castro remains in his home in El Laguito, Havana, receiving constant and specialized medical care. Castro’s family wishes to keep him alive and far from public view, Marquina said.

On Thursday, Cuban news media published Castro’s first new writing in months. The letter, which was dated Wednesday, congratulated students of a Cuban medical institute on its 50th anniversary and recalled how just days after it opened in 1962, it was converted into an anti-aircraft installation during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

"In that spirit was born and grew the tradition of that medical institution which, after the most critical days were overcome, was able to forge tens of thousands of professionals and take our country to the highest levels of prevention and health," Castro wrote.

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