Castro Reportedly Improving

Castro Reportedly Improving
From Times Wire Services

August 6, 2006

HAVANA — Cuban President Fidel Castro, described by sources as well enough to sit up and eat, could return to power in several weeks, Cuba’s vice president said Saturday.

Vice President Carlos Lage Davila denied a newspaper report that the former guerrilla fighter who had surgery for internal bleeding and temporarily turned over power Monday to his brother Raul, is suffering from stomach cancer and has an unfavorable prognosis.

Castro, whose 80th birthday is Aug. 13, has made no appearances in the five days since his surgery for gastrointestinal bleeding was announced to the Cuban public. Raul also has not been seen in public.

“Fidel has had to confront an operation and is recovering favorably. He does not have cancer,” Lage told reporters during an official visit to Bolivia.

He said the long-time Communist leader could reassume power from Raul “in several weeks.”

Lage’s comments were the latest assurances by Cuban officials and allies that Castro had not lost his grip on the government he has run since sweeping into power in 1959.

A source in Havana who had spoken to government officials said, “I was told Fidel is doing better, he has eaten something and sat up.”

Mid-level Communist Party officials were informed that Castro was out of intensive care and beginning to recover, a party source said in Santiago, Cuba’s second-largest city.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, in a speech to lawmakers in Sucre, Bolivia, with Lage in attendance, said Castro already “has recovered” from the operation.

“What is now lacking is that he return to running the country,” said Morales, a Castro ally.

The statements followed a report by one of Brazil’s top newspapers, Folha de S. Paulo, that Cuban officials told Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and members of the ruling Workers’ Party that Castro had a malignant stomach tumor and his condition was worse than has been publicly acknowledged.

A Brazilian government spokesman said the report was incorrect, but the reporter stood by the story, saying in a letter to be published in today’s editions of the paper that the information came from “two direct aides” to Lula.

Dr. Howard Manten, a gastroenterologist and associate professor at the University of Miami School of Medicine, said stomach cancer symptoms include internal bleeding, but there were many other possible causes for bleeding, including ulcers or gastritis.

Daniel Ortega, the former leftist president of Nicaragua, arrived in Cuba on Saturday to show his support for the Castro brothers, officials said.

Ortega’s Sandinista government was backed by Cuba in the 1980s, and he is running for election again in November.

“That’s what a friend is for, to be there in good times and difficult times,” said Jacinto Suarez, a member of the Sandinista Party’s national leadership.

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