Cuba state TV: Fidel Castro will attend parliament meeting for first time in 4 years

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fidel Castro to attend session of Cuba parliament

HAVANA — Fidel Castro plans to attend a special session of Cuba’s parliament on Saturday, the latest step in the bearded revolutionary’s public re-emergence after years spent out of the spotlight following emergency intestinal surgery.

Castro’s presence in the legislature — reported late Friday by Cuban state television — would mark his first appearance at an official government proceeding or in front of lawmakers in four years.

Castro, who turns 84 in a week, dropped from public view in 2006 after falling seriously ill and ceding power to his younger brother Raul. Rumors about his health swirled as he remained for years in near seclusion.

But recently the former Cuban leader has been making near-daily appearances in and around Havana.

Occasionally wearing an olive-green military shirt, he has addressed groups of Cuban intellectuals and Communist Youth meetings, and even made a trip to the Havana aquarium for a dolphin show. But he skipped last weekend’s regular session of parliament and so far has not appeared together with Raul.

The last time Fidel Castro attended parliament was a month before his health emergency. Since then lawmakers have convened with an empty chair set aside for him.

The special session will focus on the threat of global nuclear war, a topic followed closely by Castro.

A brief statement read on state television’s Friday night newscast did not say if Castro would address the assembly, which will be broadcast nationwide. But it’s hard to imagine that he won’t since he requested the special session.

Castro, who has written on the topic of nuclear war for months, maintains that the United States and Israel will attack Iran and that Washington could also target North Korea.

Castro has suggested the conflict could have Armageddon-like consequences for the whole world, even predicting in several opinion columns that fighting was to already have begun by now.

Fidel Castro was Cuba’s unquestioned, unchallenged “Maximum Leader” for 49 years, starting after his band of rebels toppled Fulgencio Batista on New Year’s Day 1959.

But Raul Castro, five years his junior, took power temporarily when his brother first fell ill, then permanently after Fidel stepped aside formally in February 2008. The succession was approved by parliament in a session that Fidel did not attend.

The elder Castro’s appearance in parliament is sure to raise questions about how much of a public persona and leadership role he is ready to assume anew. Even before he confirmed his attendance at this weekend’s gathering, top leaders and state media had begun calling him “Commander in Chief,” a title he had largely shunned since relinquishing power.

It was not clear if both brothers would attend the Saturday session. If so, it would be the first time they have been seen in public together since Fidel’s surgery.

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