Castro says rumors of his death make him laugh

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 10, 2011 3:18 AM
Castro says rumors of his death make him laugh

CARACAS (Reuters) - Fidel Castro, in an audio aired on Venezuelan state television late on Friday, joked about rumors circulating in the capital, Miami and on Twitter over the past few weeks that he was gravely ill or had died.

The 85-year-old former Cuban president and revolutionary icon had been out of sight for two months until photographs published on Thursday and Friday showed him chatting with Venezuelan state TV commentator Mario Silva.

Some of the shots, showing Castro having a bowl of soup and talking with Silva, were shown on Silva's regular late-night talk show while an audio of the interview was broadcast.

"They've killed me off any number of times," Castro joked in a hoarse but steady voice when asked by Silva about the rumors of his demise. "The guys who make these predictions make me laugh, as if for me death would be bad news."

Silva said the interview took place on Tuesday in Havana, where he had gone to put to rest false reports about Castro's health. His program supports Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

The snapshots aired on the program show a gray-haired Castro in a white windbreaker and a gray and white plaid shirt, gesticulating during the interview.

Shots from the meeting with Silva were first posted on a Cuban government website on Thursday. They provided the first glimpse of Castro since he had appeared in early July in videos with his friend and ideological soulmate Chavez, when the latter received treatment for cancer in Communist-ruled Cuba.

Castro ruled Cuba for nearly half a century before ill health forced him to hand power to his brother Raul in 2008.

(Reporting by Hugh Bronstein and Deisy Buitrago; editing by Philip Barbara)