Is Castro still alive? Just ask Maradona

havana-live-maradona-castro HAVANA, 13 January  So what does one do if prolonged public absences have the world thinking that you might secretly have died? Obviously you write to Diego Maradona.

Or at least you do if you are Fidel Castro. The letter, revealed by the football superstar on Latin American TV, marked the first reported word from the 88-year-old leader in nearly three months. Maradona appeared on Telesur on Sunday night brandishing the typed letter. He said it discussed global oil consumption, the release of three of Cuba’s intelligence agents by the US last month and a recent summit of Latin American countries.

“I’m very happy to know he’s well,” the former footballer – and old friend of Castro’s – told reporters at Havana airport as he prepared to leave Cuba. The station is backed by Latin American governments, including Venezuala and Cuba, where it is broadcast on state television. The two have known each other since Maradona visited the island in 1986, the year Argentina won the World Cup.
Maradona scored a handballed goal against England in the quarter final. He also lived in Cuba for several years after arriving in 2000 to be treated for substance abuse.

However, his intervention will do little to end speculation about Castro’s health. He has not been seen in public for a year and his death has frequently been mistakenly reported on Twitter. His recent silence is all the more telling given the sudden thaw in relations between the USA and his country. Last month, Washington and Havana announced they were movingto restore full diplomatic relations after more than half a century of enmity.

A serious illness forced Castro to step down from duties as president in 2006, handing over leadership to his younger brother Raul. The most recent official photographs of Castro came out from a private meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in August when he wore a garish tracksuit.
However, he was last seen in public in January last year, when he attended the opening of an art gallery with his wife of 34 years, Dalia Soto del Valle. Looking frail and walking with a stick, he was accompanied by his doctors.