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Viewing cable 06HAVANA8633, IF YOU DON'T HAVE YOUR HEALTH..." (AILMENTS AMONG

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06HAVANA8633 2006-04-20 20:08 2010-12-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL US Interests Section Havana
VZCZCXRO9804
PP RUEHAO RUEHCD RUEHGA RUEHGD RUEHHA RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL
RUEHQU RUEHRD RUEHRG RUEHRS RUEHTM RUEHVC
DE RUEHUB #8633/01 1102006
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 202006Z APR 06
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5744
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RUEHSK/AMEMBASSY MINSK
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
RUCOWCV/CCGDSEVEN MIAMI FL
RUESDM/JTLO MIAMI FL
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HAVANA 008633 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS, INR 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/19/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PINR ECON SOCI CU
SUBJECT: "IF YOU DON'T HAVE YOUR HEALTH..." (AILMENTS AMONG 
THE CASTRO CLAN) 

REF: A. HAVANA 8017 
B. HAVANA 7324 

Classified By: MICHAEL E. PARMLY FOR REASONS 1.4 b/d 

1. (C) Summary: Castro has reduced his public profile 
since February, but rumors of debilitating ill health are 
unfounded. Russian officials who met with him last week 
described Castro as "lively." In contrast, Raul Castro 
wears a back brace and appears to be in worse physical 
condition than his elder brother. Rumors are running wild 
that Vilma Espin, Raul Castro's wife, is near death and 
that a grand burial is in preparation. (Vilma is a 
prominent figurehead, and her death will be treated with 
the solemnity accorded to a revolutionary commander.) 
Eusebio Leal, the "Mayor" of Old Havana, has also been ill 
for some time, but recently appeared publicly at a 
diplomatic reception and art show. End Summary. 

Castro (Relatively) Quiet 
------------------------- 

2. (C) Castro watchers note the Comandante has ramped down 
public speeches since his last marathon presentation on 
January 19-21 (three nights of television appearances to 
discuss the "Year of the Energy Revolution") (ref A). 
Other than an appearance on the evening talk show "The 
Round Table" excoriating Posada Carriles and the U.S. 
Interests Section, Castro's speech topics have been low 
key: Information technology (before a visibly bored 
student audience); primary education; sports; the 44th 
anniversary of the Union of Communist Youth; and last 
night's commemoration of the Battle of Giron (Bay of 
Pigs). 

3. (C) Castro does not appear to have met with Nation of 
Islam leader Farrukhan during his April visit (ref B), 
though he has feted other "luminaries" -- for example, he 
presented the Jose Marti Prize to Hugo Chavez on February 
3. Today, April 20, Castro is expected to receive 
visiting Belarusian Prime Minister Sergey Sidorskiy. 

4. (C) Castro's relatively subdued public profile 
initially sparked (once again) rumors of ill health, but 
they are unfounded. Russian officials at a signing 
ceremony for the purchase of five passenger aircraft last 
week spent several hours with Castro and described him as 
"lively and lucid." Other foreign visitors have made 
similar observations. Instead, Castro's low profile may 
have been encouraged by nervous Castro aides looking to 
"turn down the volume" in expectation of hot weather, 
associated power outages and an irritated populace (ref 
B). Castro spent so many successive nights on TV during 
the hot summer of 2005 with its interminable power 
shortages that the Cuban public began to ridicule him 
openly, demanding a more dependable electrical current - 
along with their prime time sports and soap operas. 

5. (C) In contrast to his elder brother, Raul Castro is 
ageing badly. Japanese Ambassador Iwata told COM that 
conversations with regime insiders indicate the younger 
brother is in worse physical shape than Fidel. According 
to Iwata, Raul wears a back brace almost constantly at 
present, and is reportedly in serious pain much of the 
time from an undisclosed ailment. 

Vespers for Vilma 
----------------- 

6. (C) Even worse off is Raul's wife, Vilma Espin Guillois 
de Castro, who is reportedly on her death bed. USINT 
officials have heard the rumor that she was dead or near 
death from five sources, and two of whom went so far as to 
suggest that Espin was already dead and being kept "on 
ice" until after (or perhaps during) the GOC's May Day 
celebrations. On the other hand, Reuters journalist Marc 
Frank said Espin has been ill for some time and had called 
her friends up to a year ago to bid a final adieu. It 
seems Vilma has spent a long time "on her death bed." 

7. (C) In any event, Vilma's departure from the scene will 
be a significant event for the GOC. According to Frank, 
her funeral will serve as a useful "trial run" for the big 
day (Fidel's death). Dissident Martha Beatriz Roque heard 
a grand burial site was under preparation in Holguin 

HAVANA 00008633 002 OF 002 


Province. 

8. (C) Comment: Vilma Espin is a key public figure. She 
is not only Raul's wife, but Fidel's ceremonial First Lady 
and Head of the Cuban Women's Federation. She is not, 
however, a political power and has served mostly as a 
shining example of womanly revolutionary values (similar 
to "Mother of the Revolution" Celia Sanchez, who died in 
1980). More relevant female figures in the GOC include 
Maria del Carmen Concepcion, a regional leader in Pinar 
del Rio, and Minister of Basic Industries Yadira Garcia. 
End Comment. 

Eusebio's Illness 
----------------- 

9. (C) Eusebio Leal, the so-called "Mayor of Old Havana," 
has been rumored to be sick (possibly with diabetes) for 
some time. A Dutch hotel manager reported that 
restoration projects in Old Havana had stalled as a 
result. A Cuban project manager for Habaguanex (Leal's 
organization), confirmed Leal's illness to P/E officer but 
denied that restoration in Old Havana had suffered. She 
said the projects had been going on long enough that 
Leal's staff was perfectly capable of running the show. 
(Comment: This might be true in the short run, but Leal is 
both the brains and the political brawn behind the 
restoration of Old Havana and his influence with Castro is 
exceptional. End Comment.) Despite his ill health, Leal 
attended a Mexican diplomatic reception and art show 
earlier this week and did not betray any obvious frailties 
other than some weight loss and a display of his well- 
established short temper - he was seen berating two 
subordinates after the Mexican event. 







PARMLY