Castro says he is in ‘good spirits’

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Cuban leader Fidel Castro said on Tuesday evening he was in stable condition and in “good spirits” after stomach surgery that forced him to relinquish power to his brother.

“I can say it is a stable condition,” Mr Castro said in a statement read out on state television. He did not appear on the screen.

“I am in perfectly good spirits,” added the Cuban leader, who will be 80 on August 13.

Mr Castro broke the news of the handover to this brother on Monday evening, announcing in an official communiqué broadcast by all official media that he had ceded power provisionally to his younger brother and the minister of defence, Raúl, after undergoing surgery for intestinal bleeding.

That statement, read by Carlos Valenciega, Mr Castro’s top aide, said the president would not be able to work for weeks. Mr Castro also said that given the country was “threatened” by the US, he was provisionally appointing Raúl to his three positions of commander of the armed forces, president of the Council of State and first secretary of the Communist party.

Mr Castro, who swept to power in the 1959 revolution, is among the world’s longest-ruling heads of government. Only King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand and Queen Elizabeth in Britain have been heads of state longer.

Mr Castro’s statement said he underwent surgery after suffering gastro-intestinal bleeding caused by a heavy work schedule: “The operation obliged me to undertake several weeks of rest.

“[Extreme stress] had provoked in me a sharp intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding that obliged me to undergo a complicated surgical procedure.”

Late on Tuesday the foreign relations ministry of Venezuela, which has strong ties, said the Cuban government had advised it that Mr Castro’s recovery was “advancing positively”.

Mr Castro made an eight-hour trip to Argentina last month to attend the Mercosur presidential summit, where he delivered a fiery three-hour speech outdoors. He then returned to Cuba and a few days later travelled to the east of the country, where he delivered two speeches on July 26, a national holiday, which apparently provoked the health crisis.

It was not clear when Mr Castro was operated on or where he was recovering and Raúl Castro did not make a public appearance.

“This is a new situation and very difficult for everyone,” Carlos Barnet, a retired man in Holguin province, where Mr Castro was born, said on Tuesday. “We’ve had many years with Fidel and now the time has come to demonstrate what we have learned from him.”

Yolanda Gonzales, a housewife, said in the second city, Santiago de Cuba: “The statement makes me confident Fidel will recover. Now we have to do whatever is necessary to move out of this very difficult moment for the country.”

In Havana, where rioting broke out in 1994, the streets were calm and there was no visible increase in police or other security forces, although sources said a quiet mobilisation had started and leaders of the committees in defence of the revolution were on alert.

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