Cuban state media reported Tuesday that Fidel Castro, the soon-to-be-90-year-old former dictator of the island, spoke before the assembled Communist Party Congress in Havana to warn supporters that his death may soon be near.
The Cuban propaganda newspaper Granma published what it claimed was a speech by Castro to the Seventh Communist Party Congress, taking place this week in the capital. In the speech, Castro reportedly acknowledges his age and warns listeners that he may soon expire.
“I will soon turn 90 years old, something I would have never thought of and that is not the product of any effort, but the whims of fate,” he tells the audience. “Soon I will be like everyone else. We all get our turn, but the ideas of Cuban communists will remain as proof that, on this planet, there is work with fervor and dignity,” he states. He adds, “This may be the last time I speak in this room,” and congratulates his brother and successor, the dictator Raúl Castro.
The speech is short for a totalitarian known to have given 12-hour speeches in his heyday. He muses about the extinction of humanity (“like the dinosaurs”) and describes communism as “the most distorted and maligned concept in history.” He encourages listeners to fight climate change, a topic that President Obama has described as “defining” global leadership for him.
The speech is Fidel Castro’s most prominent statement since President Barack Obama’s visit to the island in March. The elder Castro did not meet with President Obama, instead surfacing in a letter he allegedly penned condemning the President for imposing himself on Cuba. “We do not need the Empire to gift us anything,” the letter reportedly written by Castro reads, accusing President Obama of discrimination against Native Americans and praising communism’s “spiritual wealth.”
Fidel Castro’s words, despite their rejection of his younger brother’s friendlier attitude towards President Obama while they attended a baseball game together, were not the harshest published in Cuban state media. A Havana newspaper published an opinion piece which referred to President Obama as “negro” and accused him of “inciting rebellion and disorder.” The Afro-Cuban author of the piece subsequently apologized.
Obama-bashing also made its way to the Communist Party Congress earlier in the week, when Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez used his time on the floor to call President Obama’s presence in Havana an “attack” on “our culture.”
Fidel Castro stepped down from his position as dictator of the island in 2007, after rumors circulated of his impending or already-occurring death. Shortly before the official announcement that his brother would assume his duties, American intelligence officials told the Agence France-Presse they had reports suggesting Castro had “months, not years” to live, as he was suffering from a “terminal” disease.
Reports of Castro’s death were exacerbated by celebrations within Miami’s Cuban exile community, as well as a report “confirming” Castro’s death on the gossip site Perez Hilton.