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Fidel Castro makes rare comment on his longevity

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Fidel Castro in January 2008 in Havana. (Photo: TV CUBANA/AFP/Getty Images)

HAVANA, Cuba — Fidel Castro on Tuesday once again did what no else in Cuba can and addressed his mortality.

“Soon I will turn 90 years old, never would such a thing have occurred to me and it’s not the outcome of any effort; it was fate’s whim,” Castro said, discussing his health, usually a taboo subject on the island. “Soon I will be like everyone else. To all of us comes our turn.”

Castro’s unprecedented comments came at the end of the three-day Cuban Communist Party Congress where his younger brother, Raul Castro, was re-elected as head of the party, the only political organization allowed in Cuba.

A gaunt and hoarse-sounding Fidel Castro was shown on Cuban State-TV in a blue tracksuit and seated on stage next to Raul Castro while receiving thunderous applause from the party faithful.

Members of the international news media were not given access to the Party Congress, which only happen roughly every five years and plots the future of the island’s political establishment and beleaguered economy.

Castro resigned as President and head of the party after a 2006 intestinal illness nearly killed him.

Cuban officials say Castro no longer sets government policy but that he is consulted before major decisions are taken by the island’s communist-run government.

But the former leader’s pronouncements on world affairs still carry weight in Cuba’s state-run media.

In March, a column written by Fidel Castro blasted President Barack Obama’s visit to the island, saying the American’s words had been so sugary they nearly gave Castro “a heart attack.”

During this month’s party congress, top Cuban officials echoed Castro’s words, accusing Obama of trying to “seduce” Cuban youths and private entrepreneurs and that the United States is still Cuba’s “enemy.”

Although Raul Castro, 84, began the party congress calling for a 70-year age limit for Cuban officials, on Tuesday he accepted another five-year term as party head.

That would mean Castro would continue as party communist secretary until 2021. He has said he will step down as President of Cuba in 2018 and that the next generation of Cubans will take over running the island.

But the Congress made clear that Cuban officials will stay true to Fidel Castro’s vision of a government that exercises tight control over the island’s political system and economy.

“This may be among the last times I address this room,” Fidel Castro told the 1,000 delegates.

“But the ideas of Cuba’s communists will remain as proof that on this planet if one works with fervor and dignity, you can produce the material and cultural things that human beings need,” he said.

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