Castro: Cubans should prepare for ``adverse news'

August 13, 2006

Miami Herald- Martin Merzer and Renato Perez

Cuban leader Fidel Castro, observing his 80th birthday while still being treated in a hospital, released a statement today strongly hinting that his condition remains serious and his prognosis is guarded -- at best.

The statement released in Castro's name states plainly that any recovery will take quite some time and it advises Cubans to prepare themselves ``to confront any adverse news.'

Among older generations of Cubans, the term 'adverse news' is often used as short-hand for ``a death in the family.'

Pictures released with the statement show Castro wearing a red and white Adidas warm-up suit. He appears tired and somewhat drained of energy, though one photo shows him seemingly engaged in a telephone conversation.

The photos can be seen on the website of the Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde, which also published the letter. That website is:

www.juventudrebelde.cu/cuba/2006-08-13/fotos-actuales-del-presidente-cubano-fidel-castro/ The authenticity of the photographs could not be confirmed. They were credited to Estudios Revolucion, a division of Castro's personal support group.

Castro has been in failing health for years. He was was hospitalized in late July and underwent surgery for what was described as ``an acute intestinal crisis, with sustained bleeding.'

Though the precise nature of his ailment was not disclosed, experts in the United States said the symptoms could indicate cancer, a serious ulcer or other life-threatening illnesses.

In today's statement, Castro seems to say that his condition has stabilized.

But he also says this:

``To affirm that the period of recovery will last a short time and that there is no longer any risk would be absolutely incorrect.

``I suggest to all of you to be optimistic, and at the same time to be always ready to confront any adverse news.'

He also thanks the people of Cuba and his ``comrades in the struggle.'

'To the people of Cuba, [my] infinite gratitude for your loving support,' the statement says. ``The country goes on and will continue to go on perfectly well.'


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