No word yet from Fidel amid historic US-Cuba shift

Cristobal Herrera/AP File PhotoIn this July 31

Cristobal Herrera/AP File PhotoIn this July 31

Everyone in Cuba is talking about the abrupt turn in relations with the United States, with one notable exception: Fidel Castro.

The larger-than-life retired leader of Cuba so far has made no public comment about the announcement that the U.S. will restore diplomatic relations after more than 50 years of hostility. His brother, President Raul Castro, broke the news to the nation in a TV address and may appear again at the Cuban National Assembly, which started one of its twice-annual sessions on Friday.

For years after he left office in 2006 due to illness, Fidel Castro penned editorials that dutifully were printed in all official media and read verbatim on state TV newscasts. Last year, he said he also was retiring as a columnist, but has since published occasional opinion pieces to comment on world events.

The elder Castro rarely appears in public these days. He last was seen on Jan. 8 when he attended an art exhibition in Havana. In August, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he met with him and showed photos of their encounter. His last written commentary, about Cuba's efforts to fight Ebola, was in October.

It's not entirely unusual that Castro, 88, has yet to weigh in on this week's news. He waited six days before commenting last year on the death Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president who was a close friend and ally.

Little information about Castro is officially disclosed, including where he lives. But as before, his silence causes many to wonder.

“I think that Fidel is a little bit older and his activities are very limited, that's for certain,” said Maria Teresa Ojito, a 66-year-old language teacher.

But, she said, “I'm not very worried because Raul is the one who's running the country. … Really, the one who has to make decisions these days and enter into dialogue is Raul, not Fidel.”

Pedro Pablo Rodriguez who, like Castro, is retired, also points to his age. “He's older and he's likely very excited about these things,” the 80-year-old said. “Possibly, we just have to wait until he recovers, but I'm sure he will be fine because he's a strong man.”

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