Castro-watchers alert as rumors spread

Jan. 14, 2009 at 2:01 PM
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MIAMI, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Swirling rumors of Cuban leader Fidel Castro's deteriorating health have alerted Cuba watchers to keep a close eye on the situation, analysts say.

As vague reports that Castro has become seriously ill made their way through Washington and Miami Tuesday, some observers said they were taking the information very seriously, The Miami Herald reported.

"High sources in Washington are saying that reliable sources have said that he has taken gravely ill," the University of Miami's Andy Gomez told the newspaper. "They are monitoring this very closely, including looking for additional movements of security and troops. So far, none of this has happened."

The reports came after Castro continued to be absent from public view and his ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, remarked that it was unlikely the Cuban leader would ever be seen in public again.

Castro was last seen publicly on July 26, 2006, before he underwent emergency intestinal surgery, and since then, Cuban authorities have occasionally released photos and videos of Castro with Chavez and other foreign leaders, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

The last published photo of Castro was released Nov. 18 after meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, the newspaper said.

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