By Anita Snow
Associated Press Writer
Posted December 30 2006, 9:31 PM EST
HAVANA -- A statement attributed to Fidel Castro on the eve of the
revolution's 48th anniversary assured Cubans Saturday that the ailing
leader could still recover from his prolonged illness.
The message was read by a newscaster on state television and radio.
Castro traditionally sends a message to Cuban citizens every New Year's
Eve to mark the anniversary of the Jan. 1, 1959, revolution that brought
him to power.
``I am grateful to you for your affection and support,'' read the
message. ``Regarding my recovery, I have always warned that it could be
a prolonged process, but it is far from being a lost battle.
``I collaborate as a disciplined patient, attended by the...team of our
Castro purportedly said he was still ``in the loop'' when it came to
matters of state. ``I have had exchanges with our closest comrades
always when cooperation has been necessary on vitally important issues.''
Earlier Saturday, Cuba's Communist Party daily reported that Castro
telephoned the Chinese ambassador in Havana to wish President Hu Jintao
a happy new year.
The government's release of the message and the news about his call to
the Chinese ambassador seemed aimed at ensuring the world that he is
recovering, five months after he underwent emergency intestinal surgery.
Because Castro's medical condition is shrouded in secrecy, it has been
the subject of speculation and rumor.
Castro, 80, has not been seen in public since shortly before July 31
when he announced he was temporarily stepping aside while he recovered
from his operation.
He has provisionally ceded power to his brother Raul, the 75-year-old
Saturday's story said Castro called Chinese Ambassador Zhao Rongxian on
Thursday evening and they discussed relations between their countries.
The ambassador also transmitted his president's wishes for Castro's
The island's official media has not commented on a Spanish surgeon's
declarations earlier this week that Castro did not have cancer and was
slowly recovering from a serious operation.
Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido, chief surgeon at Madrid's Gregorio Maranon
Hospital, said he flew to Havana on Dec. 21 to see Castro and consult
with the Cuban leader's medical team on how his treatment was progressing.
Castro's medical condition is a state secret, but Cuban authorities deny
he suffers from terminal cancer, as U.S. intelligence officials have
claimed. Cuban officials have nonetheless stopped insisting Castro will
return to power.
Garcia Sabrido said Castro could resume the presidency if his recovery
Some doctors believe Castro may suffer from diverticular disease, which
can cause bleeding in the lower intestine, especially in people over 60.
In severe cases, emergency surgery may be required.