Updated 12:51 AM EDT, Wed, Apr 21, 2021

Cuba Ex-President Fidel Castro Appears After Long Public Absence

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Cuba's former Prime Minister Fidel Castro has made a rare public appearance after more than a year of absence.

According to a report from CNN, Castro met with a group of Venezuelans who were on a solidarity mission in Cuba. Juventud Rebelde newspaper, which describes Castro as "full of vitality," released photos of the now 88-year-old revolutionary icon shaking hands with a crowd of people through a window in the bus he was in. He was wearing a baseball cap and a windbreaker.

Luz Nieda Parra, one of the Venezuelans who met Castro, told La Radio del Sur that the former Prime Minister is "lucid" and "looks good physically," adding that "his eyes were shining," CNN wrote.

BBC reported that Castro was last seen publicly in January 2014 at the opening of a Havana cultural centre sponsored by one of his favorite Cuban artists, Alexis Leyva. CNN noted that he had a mystery intestinal ailment that nearly ended his life back in 2006. He announced his retirement in 2008, with his 83-year-old brother, Raúl, taking his place as president and chief of the communist party and military.

Despite the lack of Castro's public appearances, he occasionally writes newspaper columns and receives dignitaries at home, CNN added.

Castro's rare appearance

Juventud Rebelde said Castro's "chance meeting" took place on March 30 while the 33 Venezuelan officials were visiting a primary school in Havana, CNN noted. Castro reportedly met with each of the delegates and discussed current affairs.

The publication stated that Castro "urged the group to continue a signature collection campaign asking U.S. President Barack Obama to revoke a recent designation that Venezuela's troubled economy and rising corruption presents a national security threat to the United States," CNN quoted.

Oil-rich Venezuela is one of Cuba's closest allies, with the former responsible "for sending tens of thousands of barrels of oil a day in exchange for Cuban doctors, soldiers, and sports trainers," the news outlet added.

Former Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, a close friend of Castro, was the one who made sure that Cuba received cheap oil from the South American country, BBC reported.

Born in Biran, Cuba on August 13, 1926, Castro was the politician responsible for making Cuba the first communist country in the Western Hemisphere. He also overthrew the Batista dictatorship in Cuba in 1959 and bought social reforms to the island country. Castro, however, was criticized for "oppressing human rights and freedom of speech," CNN wrote.

In January, it was reported that Castro supports the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Despite the endorsement, the former leader added through a letter published on the communist party newspaper Granma that he still "didn't trust" U.S. officials and that he has "not exchanged a word with them," according to CNN.

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