Amid rumors of the former Cuban leader's death, Fidel Castro showed up at a hotel over the weekend and state media published new photos of him. NBC's Brian Williams reports.
HAVANA -- Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro dismissed reports that he was dead or near death in an article published on Monday in Cuba's state-run press.
He accused news agencies and enemies of Cuba of spreading "stupidities" about him, particularly a report from a Spanish newspaper last week that said he had suffered a massive stroke and was in a vegetative state.
"Birds of bad omen! I don't even remember what a headache is," he wrote.
The article in Communist Party newspaper Granma was accompanied by photographs (in Spanish) showing him walking outside on a sunny day on what appeared to be a farm.
He wore a straw hat and red plaid shirt, used a walking cane and, in one photo, held a copy of Granma from Friday.
Alex Castro / Cubadebate / AFP - Getty Images
Photos of Cuba's Fidel Castro were published Monday in the country's state-run press following rumors that the 86-year-old was in failing health.
The photos, Castro said, were "proof of what liars they are."
Castro's health has been the subject of intense speculation for years, but the rumors gained force in recent days after he failed to publicly congratulate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a top ally, on his Oct. 7 electoral victory.
The 86-year-old former Cuban leader has not appeared since March, when he was shown greeting visiting Pope Benedict XVI, and he has also ceased writing his once-constant opinion pieces, the last of which appeared in June.
On blogs and Twitter, he has been declared dead or near dead numerous times, spurred by a long, unexplained absence from the public eye.
Elias Jaua, a former Venezuelan vice president, said Sunday he had met with the Cuban revolutionary leader over the weekend, showing reporters pictures of the meeting and saying Castro was in good health and lucid.
Castro had not written one of his "Reflections" opinion columns for state press since June 19 or been seen publicly since March.
His last few Reflections were also Twitter-like in their brevity and slightly oddball in content, which left Cubans wondering about their former leader's mental state.
'I like to study and I study'
But Castro said he had decided to stop the columns for a practical reason.
"I stopped publishing Reflections because surely it is not my role to occupy the pages of our press, dedicated to other work the country requires," he said.
As for how he spends his time now, Castro wrote, "I like to write and I write. I like to study and I study."
A look at the life and times of the Cuban leader who has outlasted nine U.S. presidents.
Castro also used the article to defend his role in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which 50 years ago this month brought the world to the brink of nuclear war when the United States discovered that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba.
Castro said Cuba viewed the missiles as necessary to stopping a U.S. invasion of the island 90 miles from Florida and had no regrets about its decision.
"Our conduct was ethically irreproachable. We will never apologize to anyone for what we did," he said.
Castro stepped down in 2006 following a severe illness, handing power to his brother Raul.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
More world stories from NBC News:
- Report: Several killed in Damascus car bomb ahead of Syria truce talks
- Source: No deal yet on US-Iran nuclear talks
- US nurse arrested in Macedonia awaits verdict in coin-smuggling trial
- Video: Dutch art heist a 'significant loss,' museum says
- Kateri Tekakwitha named first Native American saint in Vatican ceremony
- Documents add to evidence of security fears before Benghazi attack
- Pakistani girls endeavor for education
- Newlywed Afghan beheaded for her refusal to become prostitute
- Armageddon scenario: US, Israel ready for huge joint drill in Iran's shadow