Fidel Castro celebrates his 86th birthday with little fanfare (PHOTOS)


Cuban President Fidel Castro delivers a speech in front of some 500,000 Cubans in Santiago de Cuba, some 900 km (559 miles) east of Havana, 08 June 2002. It was the third Saturday rally called as a protest against the criticism of US President George W. Bush, which marked the centennial of Cuban independence, and the US State Department's decision to keep Cuba on the list of nations sponsoring terrorism.


Adalberto Roque

Fidel Castro is celebrating his 86th birthday out of the public eye, as concerns about the revolutionary icon's health grow. 

Castro, who took power in Cuba after the 1959 revolution, has been out of view for almost two months, Reuters reported. He has not appeared in any way, nor has he published one of his occasional opinion pieces in the state press, since June 19. 

There are no plans to publicly honor the communist country's former leader, according to Agence France Presse, and youth organizations have dedicated the day instead to honoring Rene Gonzalez, one of five Cuban secret service agents imprisoned in the United States. 

It is unknown if Castro's prolonged absence from public life is health-related or not, though the government's silence on the aging leader's condition has lead to widespread speculation and worry over the country's future among even the most devout "Fidelistas." 

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"He must be very sick because there's been nothing of him for a while," Havana resident Donato Torres told Reuters. "In any moment it's going to come out in the news that he died. His character doesn't allow him to be silent - he always has to say something."

There are no obvious successors for the Castros, and his brother, 81-year-old Cuban President Raul Castro, is also growing old.  

"I think the majority of people are very worried about what will happen if Fidel and Raul die. There is nobody else with the stature to take the reins of the country," retired teacher Carmelita Leon told Reuters. 

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