US embassy cable - 97HAVANA4970

CASTRO: STILL NOT DEAD AND LOVING IT

Identifier: 97HAVANA4970
Wikileaks: View 97HAVANA4970 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: US Interests Section Havana
Created: 1997-08-29 21:17:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PGOV CU
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 292117Z AUG 97
FM USINT HAVANA
TO SECSTATE WASHDPGIMMEDIATE 0389
INFO WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
USIA WASHDC 0218
C O N F I D E N T I A L HAVANA 004970 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: (X6) 
TAGS:     PREL, PGOV, CU 
SUBJECT:  CASTRO:  STILL NOT DEAD AND LOVING IT 
 
REF:   HAVANA 4932 
 
(U)  CLASSIFIED BY PRINCIPAL OFFICER MICHAEL G. KOZAK, 
REASONS 1.5 (D). 
 
1.  (C)  IN AN EFFORT TO DEFINITIVELY LAY TO REST RECENT 
RUMORS ABOUT THE DEATH OF FIDEL CASTRO, USINT OFFERS SOME 
ITEMS THAT MAY HELP DISPEL THE ALLEGATIONS. 
 
 
CONG. CAMPBELL:  FIDEL CASTRO APPEARED FIT 
------------------------------------------ 
 
2.  (C)  FIDEL CASTRO WAS PRESENT FOR SOME TWO HOURS AT 
AN AUGUST 29 RECEPTION IN HONOR OF A U.S. GROUP ON A 
PRIVATE TRIP TO CUBA.  THE GROUP INCLUDED CONGRESSMEN TOM 
CAMPBELL (R-CA) AND MARSHALL SANFORD (R-SC).  CAMPBELL 
MADE A POINT OF DEBRIEFING PRINCIPAL OFFICER THE 
FOLLOWING MORNING. IN DESCRIBING CASTROS APPEARANCE 
DURING THE RECEPTION, CAMPBELL AND HIS WIFE SAID THEIR 
GENERAL IMPRESSION WAS THAT CASTRO SEEMED TO BE FIT FOR A 
71-YEAR-OLD.  CASTRO MOVED AND SPOKE SOMEWHAT CAUTIOUSLY, 
SAID CAMPBELL, BUT NOT UNUSUALLY SO FOR HIS AGE. 
DESCRIBING CASTRO, THE CAMPBELLS USED PHRASES LIKE 
"CASTRO LOOKED TO BE IN GOOD HEALTH FOR A MAN OF HIS 
AGE," "DID NOT HAVE A PAUNCH," "WAS INITIALLY CAUTIOUS IN 
WHAT HE SAID, BUT WARMED UP LATER," "HIS EYES FOCUSED 
WELL," AND "HE DID NOT HAVE A LOT OF ENERGY, BUT MOVED 
AROUND FINE."  CAMPBELL NOTED THAT CASTRO STOOD 
THROUGHOUT THE TWO HOURS THAT THEY OBSERVED HIM DURING 
THE RECEPTION AND MENTIONED THAT CASTRO CONFESSED TO 
HAVING GIVEN UP DRINKING AS WELL AS COMMENTING ON THE 
HARMFUL EFFECTS OF SMOKING.  THESE COMMENTS OCCURRED IN 
THE COURSE OF A CONVERSATION WITH A U.S. NUTRITIONIST WHO 
WAS PART OF THE SAME GROUP.  CASTRO SAID HE HAS ON 
DOCTORS ADVICE LOST WEIGHT AND EXERCISES "SOME," EATS 
YOGURT AND HAS QUIT DRINKING AS WELL AS SMOKING, AND 
FEELS GOOD.  HE DRANK ORANGE JUICE DURING THE RECEPTION. 
CAMPBELL ADDED THAT CASTRO AGREED TO END THE RECEPTION 
WITH A PRAYER.  REV. SUAREZ, OF THE CUBAN COUNCIL OF 
CHURCHES AND A MEMBER OF THE CUBAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY 
(ANPP) BEGAN WITH THE WELL-KNOWN "BLESSED ARE THE 
PEACEMAKERS..." WHICH CASTRO FINISHED FOR HIM "...FOR 
THEY SHALL BE CALLED THE CHILDREN OF GOD." 
 
3.  (C)  THE CAMPBELLS SAID THAT CASTRO WAS VERY SERIOUS 
DURING THE CONVERSATION THAT THEY AND OTHER MEMBERS OF 
THEIR GROUP HAD WITH HIM.  THE CONVERSATION RANGED 
WIDELY, WITH CASTRO TAKING AN INTEREST IN VIRTUALLY EVERY 
TOPIC.  CASTRO SPOKE ABOUT AIDS AND THE HIGH COST OF 
TREATING THE DISEASE; ABOUT THE "EL NINO" WEATHER 
PHENOMENON; WAS ATTENTIVE BUT REMAINED SILENT WHEN THE 
BENEFITS OF ALLOWING ACCESS TO THE INTERNET WERE 
MENTIONED; SPOKE IN PASSING OF THE NEED TO BE VIGILANT 
AGAINST CORRUPTION; AND WAS "EFFUSIVE" IN PRAISING 
EFFORTS BY SOME IN CONGRESS TO EXEMPT FOOD AND MEDICINE 
FROM THE EMBARGO.  DURING THE CONVERSATION, CASTRO 
RETURNED A COUPLE OF TIMES TO PRAISING THE CHINESE MODEL 
OF ECONOMIC GROWTH WITH POLITICAL STABILITY AND SEEMED 
UNWILLING TO CRITICIZE CHINA.  HE DID CRITICIZE RUSSIA, 
BUT SPOKE IN SOME DEPTH ON THESE MATTERS WITH MRS. 
CAMPBELL WHO RUNS A PROJECT IN RUSSIA PROMOTING FREE- 
MARKET PROCESSES. 
 
4.  (C)  COMMENT:  CONGRESSMAN AND MRS. CAMPBELLS 
DESCRIPTION OF CASTRO AT THE AUGUST 28 RECEPTION IS ABOUT 
AS GOOD A FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT OF CASTRO AND HIS CURRENT 
STATE OF HEALTH AS ONE COULD HOPE FOR, SHORT OF A 
DOCTORS EXAMINATION.  EARLIER THAT DAY, A USINT OFFICER 
SPOTTED CASTRO SITTING IN THE BACK OF HIS OFFICIAL CAR 
DRIVING ALONG THE MALECON AND CASTRO WAS RELIABLY 
REPORTED TO HAVE ATTENDED THE RECENT INDONESIAN NATIONAL 
DAY RECEPTION AFTER THE OTHER GUESTS, INCLUDING PRINCIPAL 
OFFICER, HAD DEPARTED.  CLEARLY, CASTRO IS MOBILE, ALERT 
AND ALLOWING HIMSELF TO BE SEEN IN PUBLIC, UP CLOSE AND 
PERSONAL. 
 
5.  (C)  CONGRESSMAN CAMPBELL HAS NOT HAD THE OPPORTUNITY 
TO CLEAR THE FOREGOING ACCOUNT. 
 
KOZAK 

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