08/14/13 - ABC News - Cuba's Fidel Castro: Didn't Expect to Live to 87
Fidel Castro says he didn't expect he'd live long enough to turn 87 this
week after grave illness forced him from office in 2006, according to an
essay carried by official media Wednesday.
In a long, wide-ranging article taking up three pages of Communist Party
newspaper Granma, Castro, whose birthday was Tuesday, wrote about being
stricken with a near-fatal intestinal ailment on July 26, 2006.
"As soon as I understood that it would be definitive I did not hesitate to
cease my charges as president ... and I proposed that the person designated
to exercise that task proceed immediately to take it up," the retired
leader said, referring to his successor and younger brother Raul Castro.
"I was far from imagining that my life would be prolonged seven more
years," he added.
Castro stepped aside provisionally that year and retired permanently in
2008. He rarely appears in public these days, though photos and video of
him are released occasionally through official media.
It was Castro's first essay in more than four months. He stopped penning
his semi-regular columns called "Reflections" last year, and ended a
nine-month hiatus in April with a piece urging restraint amid elevated
tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
In Wednesday's essay, Castro also reflected on topics such as the death in
March of his friend and close ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as
well as the wonders of science.
"The sciences should teach us above all to be humble, given our congenital
self-sufficiency," he said. "Thus would we be better prepared to confront
and even enjoy the rare privilege of existence."
Castro also touched on key Cold War moments such as the Cuban Missile
Crisis and the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, and said Soviet Premier Yuri
Andropov told him in the early 1980s that Moscow would not step in if Cuba
were to be invaded by its northern neighbor.
"He said that if we were attacked by the United States, we should fight
alone," Castro wrote. "We asked if they could supply us with free arms as
(they had) up until that time. He said yes. We told him then: 'Don't worry,
send us the weapons and we will take care of the invaders ourselves.'"
"Only a few of us knew about this because it would have been very dangerous
for the enemy to have that information," Castro said.
He added that former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung also aided Havana by
providing 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles "without charging a cent."
Last month Panama detained a cargo ship carrying an undeclared shipment of
arms including missile systems and live munitions that were bound from Cuba
to North Korea.
Havana has called it obsolete equipment and said it was being sent for
repairs in North Korea.
On Tuesday a team of U.N. experts began inspecting the armaments and
interviewing the ship's crew to determine whether the shipment violated
U.N. sanctions aimed at blocking the sale of sophisticated weaponry to
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