Thursday, December 16, 2010

Confidential memo discusses Spanish doctor's 2006 consultation with Fidel Castro

In this December 2006 cable, Hugo Llorens, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, discusses a Spanish doctor's visit to Cuba to see Fidel Castro, who was recovering from a serious intestinal illness.
Spanish media had quoted Dr. Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido as saying he didn't believe Castro had cancer. Llorens said the Cuban embassy in Madrid had requested cancer drugs, but he didn't know who wound up using them.
Llorens said embassy staff would continue investigating the matter.

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MADRID3095 2006-12-27 15:03 2010-12-15 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Madrid

VZCZCXRO4733
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHMD #3095 3611553
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 271553Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1512
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 5076
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 0466
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 0303
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1059
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO PRIORITY 0572
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA PRIORITY 0175

C O N F I D E N T I A L MADRID 003095

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

EUR FOR A/S FRIED AND PDAS VOLKER
WHA FOR A/S SHANNON AND PDAS SHAPIRO
EUR/WE FOR ALLEGRONE, CLEMENTS, AND CERVETTI

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/26/2016
TAGS: PREL CU SP
SUBJECT: SPAIN/CUBA: SPANISH DOCTOR CONSULTS ON CASTRO
ILLNESS

Classified By: DCM Hugo Llorens; Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)

¶1. (U) Spanish media reported that Doctor Jose Luis Garcia
Sabrido, Chief Surgeon of the Community of Madrid's Gregorio
Maranon Hospital, had examined Fidel Castro for 90 minutes on
December 21. Garcia Sabrido asserted on December 26 that "as
far as I know, Castro does not have cancer." Garcia Sabrido
also said Castro was recovering well "for someone of his
advanced age," and could conceivably recover sufficiently to
return to power. In a news conferecence, Garcia Sabrido
stated that "(Castro) does not have a malignant tumor," and
is recovering from very serious and complex surgery and that
the post-operative process includes "muscular and nutritional
rehabilitation." Garcia Sabrido declined to elaborate on the
nature of Castro's condition. He said that Castro's
intellectual ability remained intact, but failed to discuss
his current physical condition, other than to say that it was
"stable." Garcia Sabrido, who admitted treating other
unnamed Cuban leadership figures, lauded Castro's medical
care in Havana and said he had not recommended any changes in
his rehabilitation regimen. Asked for his personal views on
the Cuban system, Garcia Sabrido said that he "admired the
successes of Cuban society, but do not want to offer my
opinion on other political issues."

¶2. (C) Following up on these reports, Post consulted various
sources for additional details. One contact, XXXXXXXXXXX, a Cuba activist and
close associate of noted exile author Carlos Alberto
Montaner, said that he was certain that Doctor Garcia Sabrido
was being truthful and that if he said that Castro did not
have cancer, then Castro did not have cancer. XXXXXXXXXXX said
that Garcia Sabrido freely acknowledged his sympathy for
Fidel Castro and was a frequent visitor to the island, but
that in the Madrid medical community he was also known as a
skilled surgeon with a high degree of integrity. XXXXXXXXXXX
found it impossible to contemplate that Garcia Sabrido would
have risked his professional reputation merely to delay
public knowledge of the details of Castro's illness. XXXXXXXXXXX
said that in having Garcia Sabrido make a positive assertion
that Castro does not have cancer, the Cuban Government has
obtained a credible foreign specialist to confirm what they
have been claiming in recent weeks.

//BUT CUBAN EMBASSY DID REQUEST CANCER DRUGS//

¶3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXX said that while he felt compelled to accept
Garcia Sabrido's statements, he was still confused by
elements of this case. Most importantly, XXXXXXXXXXX had
confirmed from sources in the Madrid Community health system
that the Cuban Embassy in Madrid had requested specialized
cancer drugs (sitostatic drugs to inhibit cancer cell growth)
and pain killers in June 2006. XXXXXXXXXXX speculated that the
drugs may have been for another Cuban leader.

//COMMENT//

¶4. (C) The fact that Doctor Garcia Sabrido is technically an
employee of the Popular Party-governed Community of Madrid
generated some mild discomfort for Madrid PP leader Esperanza
Aguirre, who made clear that Garcia Sabrido had undertaken
his trip to Cuba in his own capacity and without Community
funds. All political figures generally defended the
humanitarian nature of Garcia Sabrido's actions, though some
Cuban activists in Madrid suggested that Spanish donors
should also insist on being able to provide medicines to
Caritas and other charitable organizations in Cuba. Our
sense is that most Spaniards will find Garcia's Sabrido's
actions appropriate. In a conversation with DCM, MFA
Director General for Foreign Policy Rafael Dezcallar said
that he had no new information as a result of the Garcia
Sabrido's trip to Cuba, but said he believed Spanish
officials could debrief Garcia Sabrido soon and offered to
meet with DCM at a later date to discuss the issue further.
We will continue to investigate and report any new
information as it develops.
AGUIRRE

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