Rumors swirled Friday that former Cuban leader Fidel Castro had died.
But a pro-government blogger in Cuba reported that Fidel Castro’s son said he was fine.
“El Comandante is well, following his daily routine, reading, exercising,” Alex Castro was reported to have said, according to blogger Yohandry Fontana.
U.S. State Department officials provided no information on the matter.
“We have seen reports of the rumors but we have no comment on them,” spokesman William A. Ostick wrote in a statement.
Rumors of the retired leader’s alleged passing had been circulating online since Sunday, when Castro did not congratulate Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez on winning reelection.
Later in the week, Venezuelan political columnist Nelson Bocaranda reported that the announcement of the former Cuban leader’s death would be made in the next 72 hours.
But it wasn’t until Friday, when Bocaranda reported that Castro’s sister Juanita, who has been living in exile since the early 1960s, had been summoned to Cuba for an “important family announcement,” that the rumor mill went wild.
“My telephone hasn’t stopped ringing,” Tweeted Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez from Havana, who was recently recognized as one of the 50 most influential people in Latin America. “Everyone is asking about the health of Fidel Castro, but I don’t have any certainty. There are only rumors.”
Fidel Castro ruled Cuba from 1959 until 2006, when he fell ill and turned over power to his brother Raúl. The change in power was made official two years later.
He was last seen in public in March during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the island, and has not penned one of his newspaper columns since June.
Social media sites and local blogs were predictably atwitter Friday — although even those among the exile community who most fervently opposed Castro took a wary, if not weary, view.
“Rumors that Fidel Castro is dead, must be October…” read a post from Babalúblog.com’s Val Prieto, accompanied by an image of a zombified Fidel, complete with tattered track-suit and bugged-out eyes.
Responded poster FreedomForCuba: “Sooner than later he’ll make his grandiose entrance into Hell… Keep the champagne ready... just in case it happens when least expected.”
Prieto had linked to a Wednesday article on the website Neoclubpress.com, purporting to confirm Castro’s death Wednesday alongside an article by author Armando Añel. The website said it received confirmation of Castro’s death from a “source we can’t reveal for elementary reasons.”
Among the flood of responses reflecting various degrees of delight and dismay was a certain amount of skepticism:
“He’s dead again?” a poster called Travisnise wrote in Spanish. “What did he die of this time?”