Fidel Castro makes surprise appearance in Cuba
HAVANA (AFP) - Stooped and using a cane, Cuba's revolutionary leader Fidel Castro has taken the country by surprise by turning out to vote in legislative elections, after a three-month absence from public view.
The 86-year-old Mr Castro cast his ballot at a school in Havana's El Vedado neighbourhood on Sunday, engaging in an animated give-and-take with reporters at the polling station and voters for more than an hour.
The elections were to choose 612 members of the National Assembly as well as deputies of local legislatures, with the number of candidates equal to the number of available seats, so Mr Castro easily stole the show.
His rare public appearances often have served to tamp down rumours about his own health, but Mr Castro used this occasion to talk about improvements in the health of his good friend and ally Hugo Chavez, who is convalescing in Cuba. The Venezuelan president is "much better, recovering," Mr Castro said of the 58-year-old Chavez, who himself has not been seen or heard from since Dec 10, when he traveled to Havana for his fourth round of cancer surgery.