Havana, Oct. 23 (Xinhua-ANI): Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro published an article and photos Monday in state-run media in response to widespread on-line rumors that he was dying or already dead.
In an article sarcastically titled "Fidel Castro is dying," Cuba's retired revolutionary leader slammed the "lies, nonsense and harmful" rumors circulating in social networking sites that claimed he had suffered a heart attack and was near death.
Over the years, Castro, 86, has often been rumored by his critics to be dead or dying, with the latest false report of his demise made by a Venezuelan physician living in Miami who is known for having made the same claim earlier.
Castro dismissed the rumors and stressed he was in good health, saying "I don't even remember what a headache is."
As proof of his condition, he provided photos of himself to accompany the article.
The photographs taken by his son and photographer Alex Castro show the former leader in a red plaid shirt and straw hat, leaning on a walking stick in a countryside setting accompanied by his bodyguards.
In another photo, Castro is seen looking at a copy of last Friday's Communist Party newspaper Granma.
The latest rumor mill began after close Cuban ally and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez won reelection October 7 and received no public congratulations from Castro.
That silence was added to the fact that Castro has not been seen in public since Pope Benedict visited Cuba in March, and his last opinion column, called "Reflections," appeared June 19 in the local press.
Castro said he stopped writing the column, "because it is certainly not my role to occupy the main pages of our newspapers, devoted to other tasks required by the country."
Last Saturday, visiting Venezuelan ex-Vice President Elias Jaua met with Castro for five hours, Jaua confirmed Sunday, after reporters heard of their meeting.
Castro then accompanied Jaua back to the National Hotel in Havana, where several hotel staff and executives boarded Castro's minibus for a chat and photo op. That photo was also released Sunday.
Castro handed power over to his younger brother Raul in July 2006, after suffering from a serious illness. In retirement, he has written over 400 articles on international affairs, as well as books about his struggle as a young revolutionary, and occasionally met with visiting foreign personalities. (Xinhua-ANI)