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Deciphering the Status of Fidel Castro

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The two statements Fidel Castro is said to have issued were both read on Cuban television by an announcer. No pictures of Castro or recordings of his voice have been released.

As NPR's Tom Gjelten reports, that lack of hard information has left U.S. officials looking for clues.

TOM GJELTEN reporting:

In the statement released over his name on Monday night, Castro is quoted as saying an intestinal crisis obliged him to undergo complicated surgery. U.S. intelligence officials took note of the past tense and concluded the surgery had already taken place, a point confirmed to NPR by Ricardo Alarcon. They also noted the word complicated, a word Castro has often used to describe troublesome or problematic situations. It sounds like his language, a U.S. official says.

The statement carried what was alleged to be Castro's signature. Some bloggers immediately questioned whether it really was his handwriting. It was a little different from his normal signature. But the U.S. official says it was “at least in the ballpark.” This official noted that the reports of Castro's condition have hardly been rosy. This could suggest an effort to manage Cubans' expectations and prepare them for bad news ahead, something Castro has done before.

But U.S. officials also think that Cuban officials would not be insisting now that Castro did survive his surgery and will return to work if they knew they would have to change their story later. For now, says the U.S. official, there's no reason to doubt that Castro is still alive.

Tom Gjelten, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Gjelten reports on religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.
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