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Cuba's Fidel Castro makes rare public appearance

Published:Sunday | April 5, 2015 | 12:00 AM

HAVANA, Apr 5, CMC – Former Cuban President Fidel Castro made a surprise appearance in public last week, greeting a group of Venezuelan visitors as they toured a school here.

A report, published in the official Cuban newspaper on Friday, showed Castro seated in his van and shaking hands with enthusiastic visitors who reached through the window.

It was also the first time Castro, 88, had been seen since his brother, President Raúl Castro, and US President Obama announced in December that the United States and Cuba would normalize diplomatic relations and loosen many of the economic restrictions Washington had placed on the Spanish-speaking Caribbean.

The agreement was a step toward halting five decades of enmity that has sustained the propaganda defining the Cuban Revolution, said the paper on Sunday, adding that, for almost six weeks, Fidel Castro was silent about the dramatic reconciliation, leading to rumors in Havana and Miami that he had died.

He finally spoke out at the end of January, when he published a letter in the Communist Party’s official newspaper Granma, explaining that he supported a peaceful resolution to conflicts but still distrusted American politics.

In the latest photographs, Castro was shown seated in the van, dressed in a blue Adidas jacket and a black baseball cap.

The encounter lasted 90 minutes as the former president greeted the 33 Venezuelans in the exchange group one by one and discussed political affairs in their country.

The paper said he called for people to petition Obama to reverse his declaration calling Venezuela a threat to the national security of the United States.

The declaration last month eroded some of the good will in the region that the new easing of tension with Cuba had generated for the United States, just weeks before the Summit of the Americas meeting in Panama April 10-11.