Cuba's Castro Looks Healthy in New Video
( AP ) - Fidel Castro looked alert and healthier in a video taped Friday, the first images released of the ailing 81-year-old leader in more than three months. In the images aired unexpectedly on state television Friday evening, Castro wore a red, blue and white jumpsuit with "F. Castro" in small block letters. The Cuban leader spoke slowly and softly and didn't always look the interviewer in the eye, but appeared to be thinking clearly.
Officials broke into regularly scheduled programming only minutes earlier to announce that an hour-long "conversation" with Castro would be shown.
Castro mentioned the price of oil and the value of the Euro against the dollar, evidence that the video was recorded Friday, as Cuban officials said. At times, it was hard to follow his train of thought as he spoke about a wandering essay he published in state media Wednesday.
At first, Castro often trailed off mid-sentence, and needed some prompting. But he appeared to get stronger and more comfortable as time passed. His eyes and facial expression were clear.
Castro has not been since in public since July 31, 2006, when he announced that emergency intestinal surgery was forcing him to step down in favor of a provisional government headed by his younger brother Raul.
For months, official photographs and videos showed Castro's recovery, but no new images had surfaced since he appeared in an interview on Cuban television June 5.
Vice President Carlos Lage told reporters earlier Friday that the essays Castro has signed every few days since late March are evidence that his health is strong.
"Fidel continues to recuperate. It's a productive recuperation as we can see in the press," said Lage, apparently referring to the publication in state newspapers of Castro's "Reflections of the Commander in Chief."
Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque added that "Fidel is recovering with discipline and I think that he's having a productive work period - reading, studying, writing and keeping up with and participating in the country's principal decisions."
As he recovers in an undisclosed location, Castro's condition and exact ailment are state secrets, though he wrote in one of his essays that he had undergone multiple surgeries, at least one of which went poorly.
Castro also suggested he can't be bothered to trim his beard or comb his hair - possibly explaining why so few official images have been released.