New photographs of a smiling, tracksuit-clad Fidel Castro greeting workers at a scientific think tank were posted on the websites of two Cuban journalists Saturday, offering a rare glimpse of the reclusive revolutionary leader in a public forum.
Castro, 83, appears slightly stooped but otherwise healthy in the four pictures, which were apparently taken Wednesday with a worker's mobile phone. The former Cuban leader is seen raising his hand to wave in one picture and apparently being led away in another.
"He is thin but he looks good, and according to our director, he is very good mentally," reads a comment accompanying photos on the blog of Rosa C. Baez, a journalist who works for official Cuban media.
The comments were sent to her along with the photos by an unidentified Cuban worker, who said Castro stopped, said hello and blew kisses to the employees.
"They didn't let us get close to him, but when he left, there were too many people standing around and I was standing just three meters (yards) from him," gushes the worker.
The photos, taken at the National Center for Scientific Investigation in Havana, were also posted on the blog of Norelys Morales, a well-known Cuban television journalist. Morales told The Associated Press she got them in an e-mail sent to various people by the worker. She would not reveal the worker's name.
Repeated calls to the think tank went unanswered Saturday.
Cuban media are strictly controlled by the government, and the fact the photos appeared on blogs of two official journalists was significant. The photographs were not posted on the websites of state media like Granma or Cubadebate.
Castro had not been photographed in public since falling seriously ill in July 2006. The illness forced him to turn over power — first temporarily, then permanently — to his younger brother Raul, who is 79.
Photographs of him behind closed doors, usually with a visiting head of state or other dignitaries, are published from time to time by Cuban media, most recently during a visit in February by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. In those pictures, Castro looked cheerful and robust.
The elder Castro remains head of Cuba's Communist Party and continues to publish his thoughts on world events in frequent opinion pieces.
The two Castros have ruled Cuba since overthrowing dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Fidel's health has for years been the subject of frequent rumors — particularly among exiles in Florida.
Castro himself said last year that he does not think he will see Barack Obama re-elected in 2012 — though it was unclear if he was passing judgment on his own life expectancy or the political fortunes of the U.S. president.
Rosa Baez's blog: http://cubacoraje.blogspot.com
Norelys Morales blog: http://islamiacu.blogspot.com/2010/07/visita-fidel-castro-el-cnic-en-la.html
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.