Journalist: Fidel Castro in 'excellent health,'



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HAVANA (AP) - Fidel Castro was healthy and alert while speaking with a Spanish reporter about current events for 2 1/2 hours last week, the journalist told The Associated Press Monday.

A photo of the discussion appeared in official media Monday after days of speculation about the former Cuban president's health, fueled when he didn't comment publicly on Nelson Mandela's death. The former South African president was a close ally, thanks to Cuba's backing of Angolan fighters who battled forces supported by the previous pro-apartheid South African government of the 1980s.

The photo shows Castro, 87, seated and wearing a blue sweatsuit, looking intensely at writer Ignacio Ramonet and gesturing with his left hand. Ramonet and the website Cubadebate say the photo was taken Friday.

Ramonet told the AP that he and Castro discussed a wide range of topics including Mandela, Venezuelan politics and climate change and "I found him to be in excellent health and in a good mood, physically, mentally and psychologically."

Castro left power after 47 years after suffering serious intestinal bleeding in 2006, handing his duties to his brother Raul. Ramonet has written extensively about Castro and late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer last year.

"He's interested in everything. The environment, the climate crisis, Chile, Venezuela, South Africa," Ramonet said of Castro. "Everything interests him."

"I found him alert, on top of current events," Ramonet said. "We spoke a lot about Chavez," because Friday was the 19th anniversary of the two leaders' first meeting.

"It's clear that Castro hasn't forgotten him and maintains great affection for him," Ramonet said.

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Keller contributed from Paris.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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ANNE-MARIE GARCIA and GREG KELLER

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