Birthday Party Set for Ailing Castro and His Revolution

ByABC News
November 21, 2006, 4:57 AM

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov. 21, 2006 — -- Somewhere in Cuba -- no one is quite sure where -- Cuban president Fidel Castro is working very hard to recover from whatever ails him, and again no one is quite sure what that might be.

Castro has been recovering from intestinal surgery for an undisclosed illness since the summer.

U.S. government officials said earlier this month that there was still some mystery about Castro's diagnosis, his treatment, and how he was responding, and that they believed he had terminal cancer of the stomach, colon or pancreas.

Castro has appeared frail in recent photos, but his legendary willpower, no doubt, is now focused on next week, when famous friends and admirers will gather to celebrate his 80th birthday and watch a military parade on Dec. 2 to mark 50 years since his revolution began.

The mystery surrounding Castro's condition, and his fame, ensures that at no other time since the October missile crisis, when the world faced nuclear destruction, will so much attention be focused on the Caribbean island and its iconic, if controversial, leader.

Will Castro, last seen in a video on Oct. 28 looking frail and having difficulty walking, appear at Havana's Revolution Square in his olive-green uniform to salute the troops, or attend one of a number of cultural events planned for his birthday?

Either turn of events would mark his first public appearance in four months and be seen on television screens around the world.

Last month's video convinced many foreigners and Cubans alike that whatever ailed Castro was grave indeed and that he might not be able to attend the hours-long parade in its entirety, if at all.

"Maybe he can show up for a few minutes, but certainly not for hours in the sun," a Western diplomat said.

"From what I saw, I doubt he will be in condition to get too involved in all the activity," university student Isabel said. "Better that he continue his treatment."

Castro's July 31 announcement temporarily handing power to Defense Minister Raul Castro, his 75-year-old brother and second in the Cuban hierarchy, hinted he would be there.