Image: Ricardo Alarcón
Roberto León  /  NBC News
President of Cuba's parliament Ricardo Alarcón told NBC News Fidel Castro has viewed his time off from work as a "big sacrifice."
By
NBC News
updated 8/12/2006 3:39:53 PM ET 2006-08-12T19:39:53

This may be the first time in his life Fidel Castro is listening to someone else.

Doctors have the Cuban president on bed rest as he regains his strength after the emergency intestinal surgery he underwent late last month.

But that’s not been easy, according to Ricardo Alarcón, president of the country’s parliament and a close confidante of the Cuban leader.

While Castro, who turns 80 tomorrow, is “doing fine,” Alarcón points out that relaxing is not in his nature.

“He has to rest,” insists Alarcón, in an interview with NBC News.

“Imagine Fidel Castro sitting or lying on a bed quietly. Not moving around. Not talking to others. It’s the first time in his life. When I saw him, we made jokes about that.”

Alarcón described the Cold War warrior as antsy to get back to work.

“He’s looking at this as a battle, a big sacrifice, assuming it’s his duty to stay quiet and follow the directives of his doctors.”

He’s cooperating, said Alarcón, for one reason only: “People may be eager to see him up and around but nobody is more eager than him for things to get back to normal.”

Alarcón collaborates a report that ran in today’s Granma, Cuba’s Communist Party newspaper. The article said that Castro is sitting up, walking, talking and even working some during his recovery.

Castro “walked in the room… sat in a chair and engaged in animated conversation,” a Castro briefer told Granma.

The report on the front page of Granma was the most optimistic report since the July 31 announcement that Cuba’s longtime leader had undergone surgery and was temporarily ceding presidential powers to his brother Raul, the No. 2 in the government.

The paper headlined its three-paragraph story “Firm Like a Caguarian,” comparing Castro to a hardwood tropical tree native to eastern Cuba.

No public sightings
After his operation and handing power over to Raul, Castro has not been seen publicly nor has his government provided great detail about his medical condition. His office has yet to release the exact cause of his illness, where the operation took place, where he is currently hospitalized or the names of his physicians. Reports, though, continue to filter out that his recovery is “normal.”

Cuba’s weekly Granma Internacional on Friday printed an essay, “The Fidel Castro I Know,” written years ago by Castro’s close friend Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The famed Colombian writer says, “I have heard him in his scant hours of yearning for life evoking things that he could have done differently to gain more time in life,” becoming a man “overburdened with the weight of so many distant destinies.”

Castro’s nemesis, the United States, has taken his illness as an opportunity to push Cubans toward a political transition.

Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon told reporters Friday that Castro appears to be confronting “serious” health problems and his attempt to turn over power to his brother is doomed.

“The transfer won’t work,” Shannon said. “Ultimately, there is no political figure inside of Cuba who matches Fidel Castro.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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