Monday, June 18, 2007

Castro off his deathbed, still ready to put up a fight (but this time wouldn't be as isolated as before)

Castro says Cuba will defend itself against U.S.

By Todd Benson

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba will continue to build up its defenses against the United States and Cubans should be prepared to make more sacrifices to remain independent, Cuban leader Fidel Castro said in an editorial published on Monday.

In his commentary in the ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma, the first time in a series of such articles that he has turned his attention directly to Cuban affairs, Castro called on Cubans to safeguard the island's socialist system against Havana's long-time ideological foe the United States.

Castro, 80, has not been seen in public since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in July last year, when he handed over power temporarily to his younger brother, Raul.

But he has returned to public life since March by writing occasional articles, called "Reflections of the Commander in Chief," opining on everything from ethanol production in the United States to the Iraq war.

In Monday's article, which took up the entire front page of Granma and was called a "Reflection and Manifesto for the Cuban People," Castro denounced five decades of U.S. policy of isolation toward Cuba and accused U.S. President George W. Bush of wanting to invade Cuba.

The convalescing leader, who took power in 1959 and launched a leftist revolution on the Caribbean island, warned Bush that Cuba was prepared to do what it takes to defend itself from a foreign threat.

"Cuba will continue to develop and improve the fighting abilities of its people, including our modest but active and efficient defensive weapons industry, which multiplies our ability to confront the invaders wherever they are, and whatever weapons they possess," Castro wrote.

"We shall continue acquiring the necessary materials and the pertinent firepower," he added, without providing details.

Castro quoted 19th century Cuban independence hero Jose Marti as saying that freedom carries a high cost, and added that "In spite of everything, we will keep on growing as necessary and as possible."

Pictures and film of Castro have been released during his long absence from public life.

Castro looked healthier in a pre-taped interview shown on Cuban television on June 5. He has also received three foreign leaders in recent weeks, including his close ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, fueling speculation that his health is improving.

Original article posted here.

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