The mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, says weeks after meeting with Fidel Castro that he thinks the Cuban leader’s health is fading. Los Angeles Times Service
BOGOTA – The leftist mayor of Colombia’s capital city, who met recently with Fidel Castro in Havana, said Wednesday the Cuban president appeared “very sick” during their talks.
Mayor Luis Eduardo Garzón, a former Communist labor leader, also said he found living conditions and observance of human rights in Cuba to be disappointing, and indirectly criticized Castro for stifling rival points of view.
“In Cuba, everything is driven and controlled by one party,” Garzón told Radio Caracol of his December visit to Havana. “That’s not right. I have always said there should be no dictatorships, neither from the left nor from the right.”
While speculation about the 77-year-old Castro’s health surfaces every time he skips a regional summit or shows up looking his age, the man who has ruled Cuba for 45 years has delivered speeches of six or eight hours in recent years. Still trim, Castro maintains a fairly rigorous agenda of travels and public appearances.
But Bogotá’s mayor said he thought the Cuban leader appeared to be ill.
“He seemed very sick to me,” Garzón told the radio station, which broadcasts across Latin America. “You could see he had physical limitations, especially in his speech.”
News media inundated Garzón’s office with calls for more details, said the mayor’s press secretary, Augusto Gubides. He said the mayor was not available for comment.
Garzón, once a member of the Communist Party and still firmly aligned with the left, defeated a right-wing ally of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in October elections and took office Jan. 1, after his visit to Cuba.
Castro did not go to the 13th Ibero-American summit in Bolivia in November, a venue at which he usually basks in the limelight among admirers of his defiance of the United States. Instead, he sent the vice president of Cuba’s Council of State, Carlos Lage, and Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque. Castro said his domestic agenda was too crowded.