Castro to attend Cuban parliament session
CUBA – Fidel Castro will attend a special session of parliament on Saturday, his first appearance in official government proceedings or in front of lawmakers since falling seriously ill four years ago.
Cuban state television announced during its Friday night newscast that the former president would attend the session, which will be broadcast nationwide. The brief statement read on the air did not say whether or not Castro would address the assembly, which will discuss the threat of nuclear war, though it’s hard to imagine him not doing so.
The session was requested by Castro, who has written on the topic for months, maintaining that the United States and Israel will attack Iran and that Washington could also target North Korea.
Castro, who turns 84 next week, 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 already begun by now.
The gray-bearded revolutionary has suddenly been making near daily appearances after spending four years almost completely out of the public eye following emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006 that forced him to cede power to his younger brother Raul.
The last time he attended parliament was a month before his health emergency, and since then, lawmakers have convened with an empty chair set aside for Fidel.
Fidel Castro was Cuba’s unquestioned, unchallenged “Maximum Leader” for 49 years, starting after his bearded 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 failed to attend.
The elder Castro’s appearance at parliament is sure to raise more questions about how much of a public persona and leadership role in government he is ready to assume anew. Even before confirming he would appear before parliament this weekend, top leaders had joined state media in taking to calling him “Commander in Chief,” a title he had largely shunned since relinquishing power.
Occasionally wearing an olive-green military shirt, Fidel Castro 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.
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.