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The BBC's Daniel Schweimler
"Mr. Castro appeared a few minutes after his collapse to reassure the crowd he was alright"
 real 56k

Sunday, 24 June, 2001, 04:23 GMT 05:23 UK
Castro finishes speech after collapse
President Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro will be 75 in August
By Daniel Schweimler in Havana

The President of Cuba, Fidel Castro, has appeared live on state television, just a few hours after he seemed to collapse while addressing an open-air rally.


I still have more to say

Cuban President Fidel Castro
He walked buoyantly into the television studios in his customary military uniform, looking relaxed.

The president joked with journalists present, saying he had simulated his own death in order to see what his funeral would be like.

He then went on to finish the speech he had started earlier in the day, attacking Washington's policy towards Cuba.

Fidel Castro, who will be 75 in August, paid special attention to the five Cubans who were recently sentenced to long prison terms in Miami for spying on the United States.

Earlier in the day, he had been addressing tens of thousands of people at a rally on the outskirts of Havana, when he appeared to faint.

He was led from the stage while his Foreign Minister, Felipe Perez Roque, tried to reassure the crowd.

Rumours

President Castro returned about 10 minutes later to say he was all right.

"I still have more to say," he said and promised to finish his speech later in the day.

The incident will add fuel to rumours that President Castro is not well.

The Cuban authorities have always insisted that he is fit and healthy, and are sensitive to any suggestion that he may not have a strong grip on the post he has held for more than 40 years.

Fidel Castro has a reputation as a hard worker who rests little. His supporters and his enemies, both inside and outside Cuba, will now be scrutinising the president even more closely to ascertain how well he really is.

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See also:

14 Mar 01 | Americas
Powell takes tough line on Castro
28 Oct 00 | Americas
US eases Cuba embargo
19 Oct 00 | Americas
Castro: The great survivor
11 Oct 00 | Europe
The Nobel Peace Prize
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