Monday, January 15, 2007

Report: Castro in serious condition

Cuban leader said to have diverticulitis complications, Spain’s El Pais says

NBC News and news services
Updated: 1 hour, 3 minutes ago

HAVANA - Cuban leader Fidel Castro is in serious condition after complications following three failed operations on his large intestine for diverticulitis, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported Monday.

Castro suffered an infection that worsened to peritonitis, the newspaper's Tuesday edition said, citing two medical sources at the Madrid hospital where a surgeon who visited Castro in December works. The report was posted on the newspaper's Web site.

Despite its seeming immediacy, the El Pais report may shed no new light on Castro's current condition. Sources told NBC News on Monday that the El Pais article was not based on new information, but on information from the Spanish surgeon who examined Castro in December.

The Spanish doctor who examined Castro said he does not have cancer and could return to govern Cuba if he recovered fully from his surgery.

In a New Year's message issued on Dec. 30, Castro told Cubans that he was recovering slowly from surgery and said his recovery was "far from being a lost battle."

Problem with stitches
Earlier Monday, a diplomat said the ailing Cuban leader "has problems with his stitches healing."

Cuban officials in Havana were not immediately available to comment on the envoy's remarks. But Cuban authorities have been insistent they will not divulge details of Castro's illness.

The diplomat said Castro was taken to the operating theater seven times in a single day in December to deal with the problem of his stitches. He did not give details.

On Saturday, Castro's eldest son, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, told reporters in Chile that his father is on the mend.

"He's getting better, better, I see him improving," the Soviet-trained nuclear physicist said, adding that his father was in a "positive and optimistic mood."

Castro, who took power in Cuba in 1959, has not been seen in public since July 26. He handed over power to his brother five days later, fueling speculation he is so ill he may never return to power on the communist-run Caribbean island.


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