By Soledad Alvarez.
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro said in an article published Monday that rumors circulating over the past few days about his increasingly poor state of health were "lies."
The article was illustrated with recent photos of Castro standing outdoors in a field leaning on a cane.
"Birds of ill omen! I don't even remember what a headache feels like. Just to prove what liars they are, I'll present them with the photos illustrating this article," the 86-year-old Cuban leader, who has been out of power since 2006, said in a piece ironically entitled "Fidel Castro near death."
In the article, published in official Cuban media, the ex-president slammed the "uproar" in the "madhouse of imperialist propaganda" and the "lies" and "incredible stupidities" that have been said about him.
Along with the text, the official Cubadebate Web site posted nine recent photos of Castro and appearing in several of them is a copy of the daily Granma from last Friday, Oct. 19.
The former president is seen in the pictures - taken by his photographer son Alex Castro - standing outdoors, though supporting himself with a metal cane.
Wearing a straw hat, plaid shirt and sports pants, he was photographed in a field near what appear to be mulberry or moringa trees: he dedicated one of his last "Reflections" to these trees last June, when he proposed their massive cultivation to provide "jobs and healthy food."
As for his "Reflections," the series of articles he began writing after falling ill six years ago, Castro said he quit publishing them because it is not his role "to occupy the pages" of the Cuban press, "dedicated as it is to other tasks the country needs."
Castro used the moment to recall the Cuban missile crisis, of which he was one of the key figures along with U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, since almost half a century has passed since that incident brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
Cuba's position in that crisis was "ethically irreproachable," and he accepted Soviet aid in the form of armaments, oil, food and other resources to defend his country against a Yankee invasion, Castro said.
"We will not ask anyone to pardon us for what we did. What is certain is that half a century has gone buy and we stand here with our heads held high," Castro said.
Over the weekend, Castro met with former Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua in Havana and later accompanied him to the Hotel Nacional.
Castro and Jaua met Saturday in the capital, the former Venezuelan vice president told reporters.
Jaua showed reporters a photograph on Sunday of a smiling and healthy looking Castro sitting in a vehicle.
"Commander Fidel was kind enough to meet with us yesterday. We spent five hours talking about agriculture, history, international politics and, well, Fidel is doing really well," Jaua said.
The former Cuban president accompanied Jaua to the iconic Havana hotel after the meeting and was photographed wearing a hat and a checkered shirt.
Hotel Nacional general manager Antonio Martinez, who appears in a photograph with Castro, told reporters that the Cuban leader was "very happy, with a permanent smile and talking about many things."
Castro spent a few minutes chatting with hotel workers, Martinez said.
Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother, Raul, in 2006 after becoming seriously ill.
After staying out of public life for nearly four years, Castro began making appearances again in 2010 and has published several books.
He participated in the closing of the 6th Communist Party Congress in 2011, an event at which Raul officially took over the leadership of the party.
Castro had last been seen in public in March, when he met with Pope Benedict XVI in Havana. EFE