Commander Fidel Castro turns 87

By Isaac Risco*

Fidel and Raul Castro at a meeting of the Cuban parliament earlier this year. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — Rarely appearing these days in the public eye, Fidel Castro turns 87 on Tuesday in a country already accustomed to the absence of the once ubiquitous former Cuban president.

“I have lived to fight,” noted the guerrilla leader in his last public message, a letter written less than three weeks ago on the 60th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada Barracks, considered the beginning of the revolution that brought him to power in 1959.

As expected, Castro did not participate on July 26 at the celebration of the symbolic anniversary. “I won’t be (…) with you in Santiago de Cuba, I must respect the obvious resistance from the guardians of my health,” he wrote to apologize to the nearly a dozen heads of state and government who came to the island for the commemoration.

The date, celebrated as the “national day of revolt” in Cuba, was always one of his favorite venues for giving speeches that made him famous as a tireless and charismatic speaker.

Over the last seven years, speculation about his health, sometimes converted into a storm of rumors abroad, has contrasted with the message “Fidel Castro is doing fine” conveyed by each of his few public appearances or much less frequent written “Reflections“.

The former president who left office with a serious intestinal illness in 2006 has not lost the aura that makes each of the appearances of the “commander in chief” of the Cuban Revolution into a public event.

After recovering from his illness, and when it became clear that he would not occupy the same place as before in the public arena, he defined himself as a “soldier of ideas.” For several years he got used to publishing frequent opinion pieces in his column “Reflections” in the Cuban press.

Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in July 2013. Photo: Estudio Revolucion/

In his texts, some so extensive they often seemed to evoke his former marathon speeches of several hours, the former president would elaborate mainly on current global issues, especially criticizing his old ideological enemy, the United States government.

The fight against climate change, the danger of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and alternative crops to resolve food and nutrition issues became some of his favorite themes.

His fondness for the “moringa” and “mulberry” plants have given the cultivation of both common tropical plants a boost on the island. Castro sees their cultivation as a source of “food and employment”.

In October 2012, he caused a sensation with the publication of photos surrounded by moringa and mulberry plants apparently in the garden of his home in Havana, leaning on a cane and wearing a plaid shirt and a typical Cuban farmer’s hat.

“Birds of ill omen!”, he snapped at his critics to reject the insistent rumors that he was on the brink of death. The Cuban press printed several photos of Castro in his garden, a change from  the decades of images that showed him with his classic olive green military uniform.

In recent years Fidel Castro has entered a new facet in his life: that of the revered revolutionary leader among leftist leaders in Latin America.

Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and especially his close friend, the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and other high level foreign dignitaries, are often received privately by the Cuban leader at his home during their passage through the island.

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, was one of the last to see him this July. “He’s a brilliant old man” said Mujica, a 78-year-old former “Tupamaro” guerrilla on his visit to Castro, who he also called “brilliant”.

As in past years, it is expected that Fidel Castro will celebrate his birthday discreetly. The Cuban authorities have not announced special events for the 87th of the “commander in chief”.
(*) A Havana Times translation of the feature by Isaac Risco of the dpa news agency’s Havana office.

6 thoughts on “Commander Fidel Castro turns 87

  • We share the same Earthday Happy Earthday Gracias para todo! El Commandante! Arriba! Jefe

  • !Belated Birthday Greetings, FIdel! I still remember Edward R. Murrow’s interview with a 32-year-old Fidel (and his 9-year-old son, Fedelito) in a suite at the Habana Libre Hotel circa February, 1959. How we age is both nature and nurture. Until recently, a 94-year-old retired veternarian in our Great Books Group still ran two or three times per week, and continued to be sharp mentally; he was one of the most insightful contributors to our discussions. When the end came, it came fast (I drove him to last January’s meeting; by the end of February he was dead.) On the other hand, my wife’s aunt, once a leading scientists, at 92 is a shaddow of her former self. I wish Fidel the highest quality for his remaining life. No doubt in my mind, History has absolved him!

  • It is sad to see a man so filled with life and energy struggling with his declining health, but good to hear Fidel is getting out into the garden and not stuck in a hospital bed. Happy Birthday, Fidel, and Many More.

  • Did your dodgy outlet get a free box of “inverted commas” ?

  • No matter how the ‘Commander in Chief’ chooses to celebrate his 87th birthday, he can celebrate the fact that he has reached 87 years, something many will never see. I hope I can write similar in one years time.

  • I was always taught that it is better to say nothing if you can’t say anything nice about someone. Nothing.

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