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Fidel Castro close to death

December 08, 2006 17:18 IST

Cuban President Fidel castroThe ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro is battling terminal cancer and could be dead by Christmas, The Independent, London said quoting senior Western diplomatic sources. Observers close to the Cuban regime have reported that the leader is suffering from an aggressive form of stomach cancer and has refused radiation therapy or any other form of treatment, the paper said.

Cuban officials are notoriously tight-lipped over the health of their President. While occasionally they have broken their silence to report that Castro is suffering from a non life-threatening illness, these claims have been roundly discounted by Western sources.

Castro's death, when it comes, is expected to have repercussions far beyond the shores of Cuba. On one hand there are fears of an exodus of Cubans towards the US.

Castro, who has ruled Cuba since 1959, was too sick to attend his 80th birthday celebrations last week, the paper said.

He transferred power to his brother Raul, Cuba's defence minister, on July 31 citing an acute intestinal crisis, with sustained bleeding. He has since been seen by the public only in videos and photos.

Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

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