Fidel Castro defies death

Fidel Castro has given new details
of just how sick he was when he was forced to give up power four years ago,
saying in a rare interview he was weak, dangerously thin and thought at times
he could not go on.

‘I was at death’s door, but I came
back,’ the former Cuban leader told the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada.

The interview is one of the most
extensive he’s granted since stepping down four years ago. His younger brother
Raul now leads the country, although Fidel remains head of the Communist Party.

The elder Castro burst back on the
scene in July after nearly four years in the shadows, using frequent
appearances to warn that a conflict pitting the United States and Israel
against Iran has taken the world to the brink of nuclear war.

The 84-year-old has spoken to
journalists with the heavily controlled Cuban state media, but only once before
sat down with foreign reporters – an 8 August round table with a Venezuelan
news team in which he said he doubted a dispute between Venezuela and Colombia
would develop into a shooting war.

In the five-hour interview with La
Jornada’s editor, Castro said during the illness his weight fell to 145 pounds
– extremely thin for a man thought to be about 6-foot-3 and known for his large
frame – but that he is now back up to 190 pounds.

‘I couldn’t aspire to live any
longer, much less anything else,’ Castro said. ‘I asked myself several times if
these people (the doctors) would let me live under these conditions or whether
they would allow me to die.’

The government has never said
officially what Castro was suffering from when he fell ill in July 2006,
although it was widely reported to have been complications involving
diverticulitis, an intestinal ailment common in older people. He has said in
the past he underwent several surgeries and mentioned that again in the La
Jornada interview.

In the interview, Castro described
lying in a hospital room during the illness, hooked up to machines, and
wondering how long it would be before his suffering would be over.

‘Laid out in that bed, I could only
see what was around me, machines I did not understand,’ Castro said. ‘I didn’t
know how long this torment would continue. The only thing I could hope for was
that the world would stop.’

‘But I recovered,’ he said proudly.

Castro said when he did get better
he was in terrible shape, but in the intervening years he has steadily gained
strength to the point where he can now walk long distances unaided.

‘Today, I managed to take 600
steps, without a cane or any help,’ Castro said.