By MAR ROMAN
The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; 2:29 PM
MADRID, Spain -- Fidel Castro has had at least three failed operations and complications from an intestinal infection, and the Cuban leader faces "a very grave prognosis," a Spanish newspaper reported Tuesday. A Cuban diplomat in Madrid said the reports were lies and declined to comment.
"It's another lie and we are not going to talk about it. If anyone has to talk about Castro's illness, it's Havana," the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of official policy.
The newspaper El Pais cited two unidentified sources from the Gregorio Maranon hospital in the Spanish capital of Madrid. The facility employs surgeon Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido, who flew to Cuba in December to treat the 80-year-old Castro.
In a report published on its Web site, El Pais said: "A grave infection in the large intestine, at least three failed operations and various complications have left the Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, laid up with a very grave prognosis."
Cuba has released little information on Castro's condition since he temporarily ceded power in July to his brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro, until he could recover from emergency intestinal surgery.
El Pais' report, which could not immediately be confirmed, was a rare detailed description from a major media outlet about Castro's condition.
The report was not made public in Cuba, where the government runs the media and Cubans have become accustomed to very limited details about their ailing leader's health. Some criticized the unofficial reports by sources outside Cuba, saying they were speculative and likely false.
"If Fidel is exercising his right to keep everything concealed, well then, let him keep things concealed," said Ana Casas, who hadn't seen the El Pais report. "It's for his own good, so people don't talk such nonsense like they're doing in other countries."
The U.S. government had speculated that Castro could suffer from cancer _ a supposition denied by Garcia Sabrido. Some U.S. doctors believed Castro was suffering from diverticular disease, which can cause bleeding in the lower intestine, especially in people over 60. In severe cases, emergency surgery may be required.
That idea was supported by El Pais, which reported that its sources said Castro had suffered a bout of the disease.
"In the summer, the Cuban leader bled abundantly in the intestine," El Pais reported. "This adversity led him to the operating table, according to the medical sources. His condition, moreover, was aggravated because the infection spread and caused peritonitis, the inflammation of the membrane that covers the digestive organs."
The recovery from the first operation, in which part of his large intestine was extracted and the colon was connected to the rectum, did not go well, resulting in peritonitis, the report said.
A second operation to clean and drain the infected area was conducted. Doctors removed the remainder of Castro's large intestine and created an artificial anus. But this operation also failed, El Pais said.
The Cuban leader was then hit with inflammation of the bile duct. He developed a condition called cholecystitis, which is an inflammation of the gall bladder. El Pais said this condition has an 80 percent mortality rate.
A prosthetic device made in South Korea was implanted in the bile duct and failed, and was replaced with one made in Spain, the report said.
El Pais said that in December, when Garcia Sabrido visited, Castro had an abdominal wound that was leaking more than a pint of fluids a day, causing "a severe loss of nutrients." The Cuban leader was being fed intravenously, the report said.
Garcia Sabrido's secretary said he would not comment on the report.
White House press secretary Tony Snow said the El Pais report appears to be "just sort of a roundup of previous health reports. We've got nothing new."
A statement attributed to Castro was released on Dec. 31, saying his recovery was "far from being a lost battle."
Cuban officials told visiting U.S. lawmakers last month that Castro does not have cancer or a terminal illness and will eventually return to public life, although it was not clear whether he would return to the same kind of absolute control as before.
Associated Press writer Vanessa Arrington contributed to this report from Havana.