Thursday, December 16, 2010

In 2007, USINT nurse said Fidel Castro was "terminally ill"

This USINT cable speculates on the health of Fidel Castro two days after the 48th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban revolution.

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07HAVANA5 2007-01-03 18:06 2010-12-15 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL US Interests Section Havana

VZCZCXRO8314
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV
DE RUEHUB #0005/01 0031849
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 031849Z JAN 07
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1070
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES PRIORITY
RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN PRIORITY 0031
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY 0021
RUESDM/JTLO MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUCOGCA/COMNAVBASE GUANTANAMO BAY CU PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HAVANA 000005

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/03/2017
TAGS: PGOV PINS PINR CU
SUBJECT: CASTRO ALIVE FOR 48TH ANNIVERSARY OF REGIME

REF: MADRID 3095

HAVANA 00000005 001.3 OF 002

Classified By: DCM Buddy Williams; Reasons 1.4 (b/d)

¶1. (C) Summary: Cuban media carried a New Years message from
Fidel Castro noting the passing of 48 years since he assumed
power, and also announcing that he is still on a slow path to
recovery from his medical crisis. XXXXXXXXXXXX
still believes Castro is terminally ill, even if the report
from Spanish doctor Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido's visit says he
does not have cancer. Cuban media made no mention of the
Spanish doctor's visit. A contact close to Castro's sister
reports that the sick dictator is not mentally fit to retake
control of the government, even if he physically recovers.
New Years was otherwise a low-key event in Havana. End
Summary.

¶2. (U) The new calendar year is the occasion for the Cuban
regime to celebrate one more year of its own ascent to
power--January 1, 1959 being the day that Castro's
predecessor Fulgencio Batista, fled Cuba into exile. 2007 is
officially dubbed "Year 49 of the Revolution," a less
thematic name that 2006, which was the "Year of the Energy
Revolution." GOC media on December 31 all carried Fidel
Castro's New Year's message, which is essentially a pep talk
to the country and his own medical status report. It is
unknown if he wrote or even edited the text. Highlights are
as follows:

-- We've completed a year of great effort and encouraging
results in the Battle of Ideas and programs in the Energy
Revolution...We were dignified hosts of the Non-Aligned
Summit, and continued our tenacious resistance to the
empire's blockade and aggression...

-- I thank you all for your affection and support. Regarding
my recovery, I have always warned that it would be a
prolonged process, but it's far from being a lost battle. I
cooperate as a disciplined patient with the dedicated team of
doctors that take care of me.

-- I have not stopped keeping abreast of important events and
news. I exchange ideas with my closest collaborators
whenever it has been necessary on matters of vital importance.

¶3. (C) Postscript to Spanish doctor visit: Dr. Garcia
Sabrido's Madrid media interview December 26 provided some
new information, although seen through the prism of Cuban
popular opinion, is tainted by Garcia Sabrido's close
association with the regime and the Castro family. USINT
Human Rights Assistant on December 29 visited Teresita Paz,
wife of the late Gustavo Arcos (former GOC official and later
a dissident); Teresita is friends with one of Fidel Castro's
sisters and has contact with her on a regular basis.
Teresita characterized the Spanish doctor's visit to Cuba a
"farce," adding that the Castro sister said just a few days
ago that Fidel's mind is now completely gone, and he is never
going to be able to get back to work." Pro-democracy leader
XXXXXXXXXXXX told P-E Counselor December 28th that
the Spanish doctor's visit proved that Cuba is not the
medical superpower it makes itself out to be, which was why
GOC media refrained from giving the visit any publicity.
Independent journalist Miriam Leiva made the same point in an
op-ed column on December 29th.

¶4. (C) USINT Health Unit View: USINT's Nurse Practitioner,
with experience and training in oncology, has provided the
following updated assessment of Fidel Castro's health:

"Based on the photos we've seen, Fidel Castro appears very
weakened and cachectic, and it was reported publicly that he
lost 20 kilograms in just six weeks from his July 28
emergency abdominal surgery due to hemorrhaging. His October
28 appearance, in a five-minute video, shows him in an
over-sized jogging suit and walking two-three steps as if he
were a marionette swinging his arms robot-style to somehow
show strength. But it was so obviously overstated as to
almost be comical.

Although his diagnosis is a "state secret," it appeared and
still appears he is terminally ill -- having lost over ten
percent of his body weight in such a short time and not being
strong enough to walk; plus his last public words over a
month ago were mostly nonsensical babble.
Given the statistical odds of a colon, lung, or prostate
malignancy for an erstwhile smoker 80 years of age, I was
leaning towards a metastatic colon or otherwise upper
abdominal cancer with approximately six months to live from
the date of the surgery. But, if the Spanish doctor is to be
believed, then Castro may have had a perforated viscus
(bowel) with an inflammatory mass and septic peritonitis
(bacteria strewn throughout organs). The differential
diagnosis includes:

-- Perforated peptic ulcer
-- Perforated diverticulum
-- Necrotic gall bladder
-- Mesenteric ischemia (compromised blood flow) of the colon,
with necrosis and perforation.

All this points to a very sick individual, whose recovery is
made that much more difficult by the weight loss and possible
sepsis.

¶5. (C) Comment: Embassy Madrid's report places Garcia
Sabrido's medical reputation above his regime sympathies,
which leads us to believe that the Cuban medical team
treating Castro may be able to keep him alive longer than we
originally estimated. Such a medical diagnosis leaves the
Raul-Castro-led clique currently in charge for an extended
period of limbo, characterized by stresses and strains in the
palace and popular expectation that 2007 should be a year of
change and economic improvement. It will be nearly
impossible for anything good to happen (economy, human
rights, international relations) as long as this limbo period
keeps running.
PARMLY

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