Cuba releases new photos of Fidel Castro as health rumors swirl

First new images published on state media outlets in months show Fidel Castro in conversation with a student

Officials with Cuba's state-run media have released a series of new photographs of a frail-looking Fidel Castro as questions continue about the health of the former leader.

The photos appeared late Monday night and were first published in the state-run newspaper Granma. Nearly two dozen images were subsequently published on the websites of Cuba's main state media outlets.

In the photos, the 88-year-old Castro is seated and seen discussing current events with Randy Perdomo Garcia, a leader of the student association at the University of Havana.

A first-person account by Perdomo says the meeting took place on Jan. 23.

Perdomo said in a lengthy article accompanying the photos that he and Castro met for more than three hours in the former leader's house after an event celebrating the 70th anniversary of Castro starting his studies at the University of Havana.

The student leader reported that Castro said he is keeping abreast of the news and performing daily exercises, and that he engaged Perdomo in a wide-ranging discussion of topics including international politics, agriculture, astronomy and even Namibia's donation of animals to Cuba's National Zoo.

The photos are the first images of the revolutionary leader since a set of photos came out in August showing him talking with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. 

Speculation about Castro's health has swirled since he stepped down from his duties as president after a serious illness in 2006 and handed over leadership to his younger brother, Raul. He has not made a public appearance in more than a year.

That speculation grew when Castro did not issue a public statement for nearly a month after the Dec. 17 announcement that Cuba and the U.S. were moving to reestablish full diplomatic relations

Last month, rumors that Castro had died hit social media after El Diario de las Américas, a South Florida-based publication read largely by the state's Cuban population, published a report that Cuba officials were going to hold a news conference on Castro's health.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

7:11 a.m.: This article has been updated throughout with additional details and background.

This article was originally published at 1:09 a.m.

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