Fidel Castro makes first known public appearance in four years

By Jeff Franks
Sunday, July 11, 2010

HAVANA -- Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro made his first known public appearance since falling ill four years ago in a visit last week to a Havana scientific facility, a blog reported Saturday.

Photographs taken with a cellphone and posted with the pro-government blog showed a smiling Castro, 83, chatting with people said to have gathered around him as he was leaving the National Center of Scientific Investigations.

The blogger, Rosa C. Baez, wrote that Castro was spotted making a "surprise visit" to the center Wednesday and stopped to greet and "throw kisses" to the group that waited for a chance to see him.

"He is thin, but looked good and, according to our director, is very good mentally," said Baez, whose blog appears on a Web site titled "Bloggers and Correspondents of the Revolution."

In the photos, the white-bearded Castro wears an athletic jacket, as he has in virtually all photographs published since he went into seclusion.

Castro has been seen only in occasional photographs and videos since he underwent emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006 and ceded power provisionally to his younger brother, Raúl Castro. He resigned the presidency in February 2008 and Raúl, 79, officially took over.

Last year, Venezuelan President and close ally Hugo Chávez said Castro had been going for walks near his Havana residence, but the government never confirmed that assertion and there were no known photos of him out and about.

A government spokesman said Saturday he could not confirm that Castro had gone to the scientific center, which he created in 1965 to conduct research in areas such as natural science and medicine.

-- Reuters

© 2010 The Washington Post Company