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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 05:20 GMT 06:20 UK
'Wrong kind of fall' for Castro
Aides help Mr Castro after his fall
Some people wept among the stunned audience in Santa Clara
Washington has declined to wish Fidel Castro a speedy recovery, with some officials joking that they preferred to hear of a "different kind of fall".

Mr Castro is in a plaster cast after three hours of surgery for fractures to his left knee and right arm, suffered during his fall at a rally.

He told Cubans he had refused a general anaesthetic because he could not abandon his duties as head of state.

Venezuela's leftist leader, Hugo Chavez, has sent him his best wishes.

Speaking to supporters in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, the former paratrooper said his Cuban counterpart had made light of the incident when they talked by telephone.

"I think I would have made a good parachutist," Mr Castro, 78, was quoted as saying.

Correspondents say that the fall revives questions about who, or what, will eventually replace "Fidel", who has ruled with an iron grip since the revolution.

'Little concern'

The US state department appeared to be in no mood to show sympathy for a Communist revolutionary who has defied Washington's power for more than four decades and who has reportedly survived hundreds of assassination attempts.

Fidel Castro with former child castaway Elian Gonzalez in Santa Clara just before his fall
The leader looked well just before his speech

Asked if the state department wished him a speedy recovery, spokesman Richard Boucher simply replied: "No".

"The situation of Mr Castro is little concern to us but, unfortunately, of enormous importance to the people of Cuba, who have suffered very long under his rule," he said.

One unnamed state department official quoted by AFP news agency in Washington quipped: "We've been looking forward to Castro's fall for years but this isn't what we had in mind."

Mr Castro, whose fall after a speech at a graduation ceremony in Santa Clara on Wednesday night was caught on camera, issued a public letter reporting the surgery he had undergone.

"Given the current circumstances, it was necessary to avoid general anaesthesia to be in conditions to attend numerous important affairs [of state]," he said.

In the 1,183-word letter published on Thursday, he blamed his fall on "the strong emotions" of the day.

Watch a video of Castro's fall

SABC Castro breaks knee in public fall - 16 hrs ago
ABCNEWS.com Castro Says Still in Full Control Despite Fall - 18 hrs ago
Reuters UK Castro says still in full control after fall - 19 hrs ago
CBS News Fidel Acts Fit As A Fiddle - 19 hrs ago
New York Times Castro Says He's Working Despite Injuries - 20 hrs ago
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Castro breaks knee, arm in fall
21 Oct 04  |  Americas
Country profile: Cuba
02 Jul 04  |  Country profiles

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