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The mysterious reappearance of Fidel Castro

For the past four years, Fidel Castro has been almost invisible. But now, he's back in public and appearing on a Cuban TV show tonight. Why?

By Staff writer / July 12, 2010

Cuban leader Fidel Castro, right, greets an unidentified woman during a visit to the National Center for Scientific Investigation in Havana July 7.

Cubadebate-Alex Castro/AP

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Mexico City

The lead photo on the website of the Cuban state-run news organization Granma features Fidel Castro in a rare public appearance. He's still wearing track suits. But El Jefe will appear on television tonight on the nation's current affairs program, and the public will hear his voice for the first time in three years.

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Fidel Castro's re-emergence comes as Cuba has agreed to the release of 52 prisoners, a move hailed as an important step forward by leaders from the US to Europe.

Coincidence?

For those skeptical of Cuba's commitment to increasing its human rights record and path toward democracy, Mr. Castro, whose public appearances have been few and far between since he fell ill in 2006, is re-emerging as many are hoping that changes are underway in the island nation.

“It would be reasonable to think that Castro is dying and there might be change in the air,” says Ian Vasquez, the director of the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. “But his [appearance now] could be a signal to Cubans not to get high hopes. …. I think the more important message is: 'I am still around, do not get any fancy ideas.' ”

Castro has been photographed with regional leaders visiting the island, including a recent one by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, but mostly he has stayed on the sidelines, only giving his opinions in the pages of Granma. Mr. Vasquez says his reemergence now is significant, underlining that he is still at the helm Cuba, he says.

Last Wednesday, Fidel Castro visited the National Center for Scientific Research in Havana. Photos of him talking with workers ran in Granma this morning. Less than a week later, he is expected this evening on a special program of The Round Table, according to Granma.

But the Cuban leader is not scheduled to address the major issue of the day – the prisoner release. Instead, he's expected to discuss the subject that he has devoted much of his opinions to since he temporarily, and later permanently, ceded control of Cuba to his younger brother Raul Castro: the Middle East. Specifically, he's been warning of an impending clash between the US and Iran.

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