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Fidel plays host in Havana


Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, left, chats with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Havana this week as Castro's wife, Dalia Soto del Valle, listens in.

He’s 87, he’s apparently still alert and intellectually engaged, and he’s still capable of stealing the show.

The “he” in question is former Cuban president Fidel Castro, of course, and he’s been chatting up a succession of Latin American leaders this week, as Havana hosts a regional summit of an organization known as CELAC, Spanish acronym for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

Photographs show an apparently healthy Fidel holding court, separately, with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her Brazilian counterpart, Dilma Rousseff, among other political luminaries gathered in the Cuban capital for the round of meetings.

Neither the United States nor Canada belongs to the organization.

The elder Castro brother was laid low in 2006 by a gastro-intestinal ailment that nearly cost him his life. Since then, he has largely withdrawn from public view, replaced as Cuba’s president by his slightly younger brother, Raúl, a considerably less flamboyant – and more pragmatic – man.


Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, left, exchanges views with Castro this week in Havana.

It is rare to see the former ruler in so domestic a setting or accompanied in public by the woman variously described as his wife or companion.

Still bearded, with that strikingly familiar visage, Castro in recent years has traded in his olive-green military attire for a distinctly casual if not somewhat sloppy look that seems to consist exclusively of checkered shirts and track suits. As for cigars, he gave those up decades ago.

Oakland Ross is a foreign affairs reporter for the Toronto Star.


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