Fidel Castro Responds to Health Rumors (Sort of)

PHOTO: In this photo from March 28, 2012, Fidel Castro greets Pope Benedict XVI during the Popes visit to Cuba.

Cuban state media released a message attributed to Fidel Castro on Wednesday evening, as speculation mounts over the health condition of the 86-year-old communist leader.

Last week Twitter was awash with rumors that Fidel Castro was on his deathbed, and that he had suffered severe brain damage. Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda even suggested on October 11 that the Cuban government would announce Castro's death "within 72 hours."

This announcement never happened.

And in the message published this morning by the state-run newspaper Grama, Castro seems to be using his memory, as he congratulates doctors graduating from the Victoria de Giron medical academy.

Here's how the statement begins:

"Five decades ago in a public ceremony…we inaugurated this center, in response to the criminal actions of the neighboring empire, which, with promises of visas and employment took most of the six thousand doctors that this country had at the time."

It sounds like something Castro would write. But skeptics have pointed out that Cuban state media has not provided a picture of the ailing leader, or a video as definitive proof that he is alive and in good health.

Castro has not been seen in public since late March, when he met with Pope Benedict XVI. The former Cuban president, who was forced to retire from the job in 2006 due to a serious intestinal illness, also hasn't written a column in Cuba's Granma newspaper since June.

But as CNN points out, it is Castro's silence following elections in Venezuela on October 7, which sparked the latest wave of rumors about his health.

Hugo Chavez won that election with 55 percent of the vote, but received no congratulatory message, not even a tweet, from his longtime friend and ally in Havana.

Over the weekend, one of Castro's sons said that his father was in good health, but opponents of El Comandante are still sekptical.

"The statement [published in Granma] is false, there's no video, don't be fooled" tweeted Jose Marquina, a Venezuelan doctor who claims that he obtains information on Castro from his medical personnel.

Marquina told Spanish newspaper ABC that one of Castro's brain arteries was blocked, and said that the communist leader's health condition is "precarious."

In the ABC newspaper article, Marquina also claims that Chavez made a secret visit to Cuba on Tuesday, in order to visit Castro and also so that he could undergo a PET scan, which is part of his own cancer treatment.

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