Fidel Castro suggested Thursday that his health is failing, saying that four years from now he doesn't expect to be following current events.
In an online column titled "Reflections of Comrade Fidel," the 82-year-old Cuban leader appeared to be pondering his own mortality, saying Cuban officials "shouldn't feel bound by my occasional Reflections, my state of health or my death."
"I have had the rare privilege of observing events over such a long time. I receive information and meditate calmly on those events," he wrote. "I expect I won't enjoy that privilege in four years, when Obama's first presidential term has ended."
He didn't elaborate, but suggested he was stepping out of government affairs, writing: "I have reduced the Reflections as I had planned this year, so I won't interfere or get in the way of the (Communist) Party or government comrades in the constant decisions they must make."
The bulk of the column was devoted to praising Obama, in part for his decision to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, recalling his thoughts Tuesday as he watched Obama assume the "leadership of the empire."
Obama called 'intelligent and noble'
"The intelligent and noble face of the first black president of the United States ... had transformed itself under the inspiration of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King into a living symbol of the American dream," he wrote.
However, Castro suggested Obama would soon fall victim to the U.S. system: "What will he do soon, when the immense power that he has taken in his hands is absolutely useless to overcome the unsolvable, antagonistic contradictions of the (American) system?"
The column, released Thursday evening, was his second in as many days. Before that, Castro hadn't been heard from in more than a month, fueling rumors that he had suffered a stroke or lapsed into a coma.
Castro hasn't been seen in public since July 2006, when he underwent emergency surgery. He turned over the presidency to his younger brother Raul in February after nearly a half century as Cuba's leader. Obama is the 11th U.S. president Castro has seen during that period.
Like in his column the previous day, Castro praised Obama as honest, writing: "No one could doubt the sincerity of his words when he affirms that he will convert his country into a model of freedom, respect for human rights in the world and the independence of other nations."
Castro also met Wednesday with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, the first known meeting with a foreign leader since Nov. 28. Fernandez said Castro wore the track suit that has become his trademark since he fell ill.
No end to embargo
Obama has said he will not end the U.S. embargo on Cuba without democratic reforms on the island, but will ease limits on Cuban-Americans' visits there and on the money they send home to relatives. He has also offered to negotiate personally with Raul Castro.
Raul Castro, 77, said Wednesday that his older brother spends his days "thinking a lot, reading a lot, advising me, helping me."
In an interview published Thursday by the Russian news agency Itar-Tass, Raul Castro said Cuba will insist that Obama's administration close the entire U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay — not just the prison camp for suspected terrorists.
"We demand that not only this prison but also this base should be closed and the territory it occupies should be returned to its legal owner — the Cuban people," Castro was quoted as saying, repeating a long-standing demand.