HAVANA (AP) - Fidel Castro is back.
The aging revolutionary leader will appear Monday on a key Cuban
television news program for the first time in at least four years,
according to a front-page headline in the Communist-party
newsletter Granma. It would be the second appearance in recent days
by the normally reclusive former president.
Castro, 83, was set to discuss his concerns about the Middle
East on the Mesa Redonda - or Round Table - a daily talk show about
current events that is usually transmitted live on state media and
seen across the island.
"This afternoon, special Mesa Redonda with Fidel," blares the
Castro has not appeared on the program since a serious illness
in 2006 forced him to step down - first temporarily, than
permanently - and hand power over to his brother Raul. Photos of
the elder Castro greeting workers at a science center were
published in pro-government blogs and on state media over the
weekend, the first time he has been photographed in public in that
Castro remains head of Cuba's Communist Party and continues to
publish his thoughts on world events in frequent opinion pieces,
called Reflections. Recently, he has voiced alarm about America's
standoff with Iran over nuclear issues, as well as a deadly Israeli
raid on an aid convoy headed to Gaza.
But he has stayed almost entirely out of the public eye since
ceding power, helping Raul Castro carve out a role as the country's
leader after a lifetime spent in his more famous brother's shadow.
The two Castros have ruled Cuba since overthrowing dictator
Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Fidel's health has for years been the
subject of frequent rumors - particularly among exiles in Florida,
and his television appearance will undoubtedly be scrutinized for
signs of his aging.
The photographs of Fidel published this weekend were taken on
Wednesday at a scientific think tank in Havana. He is shown smiling
and waving at workers, appearing relaxed and happy, but somewhat
stooped. Granma republished the photographs on Monday under the
story about his upcoming television appearance.
Cuba has occasionally released pictures showing Castro in
private meetings with dignitaries, most recently during a visit in
February by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. But he
had not been photographed in a public setting since 2006.