Fidel Castro does not have cancer and is recovering slowly from a serious operation, a Spanish surgeon who treated the Cuban leader said Tuesday.
The comments by Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido, the chief surgeon at Madrid's Gregorio Maranon Hospital, represented the first independent medical assessment of Castro's condition since the Cuban leader underwent emergency intestinal surgery in July. The Cuban government has kept Castro's condition a state secret, occasionally releasing photographs and videos of him.
Garcia Sabrido visited Havana last week to examine Castro and consult with his medical team.
"He hasn't got cancer," Garcia Sabrido said. "While respecting confidentiality, I can tell you that President Castro is not suffering from any malignant sickness."
Castro, 80, has not appeared in public since temporarily ceding power to his younger brother, Raul, after his surgery. Garcia Sabrido declined to give details about Castro's condition, but said it was "a benign process in which there have been a series of complications."
Cuban authorities already had denied U.S. intelligence speculation that Castro suffered from terminal cancer, but his prolonged absence has fueled increasing speculation that he would not return to power.
Asked whether he thought Castro would be physically capable of once again governing Cuba, Garcia Sabrido said: "If his recovery is absolute, then naturally, yes.
"I think that in these moments his decision to delegate power implies that he must now be dedicated to his recovery. What happens in the future will be an absolutely personal matter," the doctor said.
Some U.S. doctors believe that Castro may suffer from diverticular disease, which can cause bleeding in the lower intestine, especially in people over 60. In severe cases, emergency surgery may be required. Garcia Sabrido specializes in the digestive system and in transplants.
Garcia Sabrido said he was impressed by Castro's good spirits.
"He wants to return to work every day, but medical recommendations demand caution," he said, adding that one of the problems the Cuban medical team had was limiting Castro's activities.
There was no mention of Garcia Sabrido's visit in Cuba's state media.