HAVANA, (Reuters) – As Cuba shipped off more freed political prisoners to Spain, former leader Fidel Castro stayed in the spotlight on Tuesday, making his third public appearance in the past week after four years in seclusion.
The 83-year-old comandante met with economists in Havana’s Center for Research on the World Economy to ask them to think about how to create a “new civilization” after the coming nuclear war he has predicted for several weeks, according to state-run website www.cubadebate.cu.
It published photographs by his son Alex Castro of the white-bearded, blue-shirted Castro sitting at the head of a table presiding over the meeting. Unlike in most recent photos, he was not wearing an athletic jacket.
He has been writing in Cuban media that nuclear war will soon break out when the United States, in alliance with Israel, tries to enforce international sanctions against Iran for its nuclear activities.
Before the past few days, Castro had been seen only in a occasional photographs and videos since undergoing intestinal surgery in July 2006.
But on Saturday, first a blogger, then the government said Castro had appeared on Wednesday at the National Center of Scientific Investigations and ran photographs to prove it.
Then on Monday, Castro appeared in a videotaped interview on Cuban television talking about his predicted war.
Intended or not, Castro’s appearances have drawn attention away from Cuba’s largest release of political prisoners since 1998.
The freeing of 52 jailed dissidents, viewed internationally as a possible turning point for Cuba, began on Monday night when the first seven were flown to Spain.
Spanish officials said three or four more were to go on Tuesday to Spain, which agreed to accept them in negotiations last week.
They were expected to leave Havana on Tuesday night flights, but Cuban officials were mum on the topic.
The release is the product of a new dialogue between the Cuban government and Catholic Church, which began in earnest in a May 19 meeting between President Raul Castro and Cardinal Jaime Ortega, leader of Cuba’s Catholics.