Fidel Castro health fears growing
The rumour mill surrounding the health of Fidel Castro is churning despite a letter from the ageing Cuban revolutionary published by state media and denials by relatives at home and in the United States that he is on death's door.
Social media sites and some news organisations have reported allegations by a Venezuelan doctor that the 86-year-old suffered a massive stroke, was in a vegetative state and had only weeks to live. The same doctor, Jose Rafael Marquina, has made claims before that have not proven to be correct.
Dr Marquina told the newspaper ABC in Spain that Mr Castro had suffered a "massive embolism of the right cerebral artery" and while not on life support or breathing artificially, was "moribund" at a house in a gated former country club in western Havana.
the doctor also said Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez had travelled suddenly to Havana to be with his friend and ally.
Dr Marquina said his sources were in Venezuela, but he would not identify them or say how they were in a position to have information about Mr Castro's health. He also indicated he had received corroborating evidence from sources on Twitter, but would not say who.
In April, Dr Marquina said that Mr Chavez, who has been battling a kind of cancer, was in his "last days" and would not last to November. With less than two weeks to go, the Venezuelan leader says he has beaten the illness and appears stronger in public.
Mr Castro has not been seen in public since March, when he received visiting Pope Benedict XVI. He has also stopped writing his once-constant opinion pieces, the last of which appeared in June.
There was no immediate comment from the Cuban government on the latest claims, but a letter attributed to Mr Castro was published on Thursday by Cuban state media. In it, he congratulated graduates of a medical school on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.
Two close family members of Mr Castro have also recently denied he is in grave condition. Juanita Castro, the former leader's sister, said in Miami that reports of her brother's condition are "pure rumours" and "absurd".
Son Alex Castro told a reporter for a weekly Cuban newspaper that his father "is well, going about his daily life".