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Castro's imprint

December 24, 2006|SWATI PANDEY

FIDEL CASTRO MAY NOT have commissioned countless statues and portraits of himself, but his presence is palpable throughout Cuba. In the streets of Havana, photographer Theo Kingma found many people inspired by Castro, among them a veteran and supporter of the Cuban Revolution and a boy in army fatigues. The Cuban icon even moved some countrymen to illegally graffiti their praise.

But now Cubans are as clueless as the rest of the world about the health of their leader, who was last seen in public six months ago. After intestinal surgery on July 31, Castro missed celebrating his Aug. 13 birthday, and he failed to appear at a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces this month. On Friday, Cuba's National Assembly of Popular Power began a new session, and Castro's chair was empty.

U.S. intelligence officers wonder if Castro is terminally ill. Some doctors guess he may have bleeding in his lower intestine.

His health has been declared a state secret, but most agree Castro will not return to power.

According to Granma, the Cuban Communist Party's newspaper, his brother, Raul, said, "The only substitute for Fidel can be the Communist Party of Cuba."

-- SWATI PANDEY

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