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In First Photos Since August, Cuba's Fidel Castro Meets With Student Leader

Recent reports about the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro appear to be exaggerated. Cuban state media released images of the 88-year-old Castro who has not been seen in public for more than a year, an absence that has led to speculation he is ailing or worse.

The photographs are the first since August 2014 when Castro was shown talking to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. In the images released today, the former Cuban leader is seen talking to Randy Perdemo Garcia, the head of the country's main student union. An accompanying piece by Perdemo Garcia says the three-hour meeting to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Castro starting his studies at the University of Havana took place Jan. 23. The Associated Press has more:

"The student leader says Castro said that he is keeping abreast of the news and performing daily exercises, and he engaged Perdomo in a wide-ranging discussion of topics including international politics, agriculture, astronomy, and even Namibia's donation of animals to Cuba's National Zoo.

"Perdomo says the two men discussed the release of three Cuban intelligence agents as part of the Dec. 17 declaration by Cuba and the United States that they would move to re-establish full diplomatic relations. The photos show Castro examining a newspaper report on their release."

On Jan. 26, the Communist Party-run Granma newspaper released a letter that it attributed to Castro, in which, as NPR's Eyder Peralta reported, he insisted Cuba will defend its ideals in the face of a planned rapprochement between his country and the U.S.

"I don't trust the politics of the United States and I've not said a word to them," he wrote. "This doesn't mean, however, that I reject a peaceful outcome... We will always defend the cooperation and friendship with all of the world and our our political adversaries."

An ailing Castro stepped down as Cuba's president in 2006 and handed the country's reins to his brother, Raul Castro. Rumors of his death have surfaced periodically since then.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.