CIA says Castro has Parkinson's disease
CIA says Castro has Parkinson's disease
Wed Nov 16, 2005 8:34 PM ET165
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA has concluded that
Cuban President Fidel Castro suffers from Parkinson's
disease and could have difficulty coping with the
duties of office as his condition worsens, an official
said on Wednesday.
The assessment, completed in recent months, suggests
the nonfatal but debilitating disease has progressed
far enough to warrant questions among U.S.
policymakers about the communist country's future in
the next several years.
"The assessment is that he has the disease and that
his condition has progressed. There appear to be more
outward signs," said an official who is familiar with
Bush administration officials and members of Congress
have already been briefed on the findings about
Castro. The Cuban leader, 79, has been in power on the
island of 11 million people since leading a 1959
revolution and has long been at ideological odds with
But U.S. diplomats played down the significance of any
CIA assessment and said they were not using such
intelligence to make policy decisions about Castro or
"Do we see him losing his grip over the country? No,"
said a State Department official, who asked not to be
named because he was discussing intelligence
conclusions. "We are not in any way adapting how we
plan for the day Castro is gone based on an assessment
that he might have Parkinson's."
The CIA based its assessment on a variety of evidence,
including observations of Castro's public appearances
and the opinions of doctors employed by the espionage
"If the assessment is correct, you could expect there
to be effects on his ability to come to grips with
fresh challenges over the next several years," said
the U.S. official who has seen the CIA report. He
spoke on condition of anonymity because the document
"It could have implications for the way Castro
functions, and by natural course, the way the Cuban
government functions," the official added.
HISTORY OF RUMORS
Cuban officials declined to comment on the CIA
assessment. They insisted Castro was in good health
when he failed to show up at a summit of
Ibero-American leaders in Spain in October.
Castro has long been the subject of rumors of
illnesses including Parkinson's, despite a generally
strong physical constitution. Many of the reports up
to now have come from the anti-communist Cuban
American community in Florida.
Castro has dismissed them as the work of his enemies
who wish to see him dead. In a recent television
interview with Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona,
Castro joked the rumors were so many that the day he
died, nobody would believe it.
The Cuban leader's pace has slowed noticeably since
tumbling to the floor after a speech a year ago. But
his stamina appears unabated and he still gives long
Castro's brother Raul, head of the armed forces, has
been designated as his successor and the Cuban leader
has said that he expects Cuba's political system to
"If it's true and he does have it, then it's still an
open question anyway as to how much it might --
somewhere further in the future -- affect how he runs
Cuba. So we would not use this kind of conclusion to
inform our policymaking, anyway," the State Department
official said of the CIA assessment.
Cuba and the United States have no diplomatic
relations and Washington imposed an economic embargo
on Havana 43 years ago.
Parkinson's is a chronic, irreversible disease that
affects about 1 percent of people over the age of 65
worldwide. Among notable sufferers are actor Michael
J. Fox, boxing legend Mohammad Ali and former U.S.
Attorney General Janet Reno.
The Miami Herald, which originally reported the CIA
assessment on Wednesday, said Castro could be entering
a period in which medicines are less effective and
mental functions start to deteriorate.
But the newspaper said Cuba analysts fear the
possibility of a tumultuous period during which an
incapacitated Castro refuses to give up power but can
no longer lead.
In October 2004 when Castro tripped and broke his left
knee and right arm after a speech, he refused
tranquilizers and general anesthetic during a
three-hour operation, telling Cubans he was fully in
command of government affairs.
He has dismissed reports of illnesses ranging from
stroke and brain hemorrhage to heart attack and
(Additional reporting by Saul Hudson in Washington and
Michael Christie in Miami)