- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 26, 2006

MADRID - A Spanish surgeon who treated Fidel Castro said the ailing Cuban leader does not have cancer, insisting yesterday that he was recovering slowly but progressively from a serious operation.

The comments by Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido, the chief surgeon at Madrids Gregorio Maranon Hospital, were the first independent medical assessment of Mr. Castros condition since the Cuban leader underwent emergency intestinal surgery in July. The Cuban government has kept Mr. Castros condition a state secret, occasionally releasing photographs and videos of him to show that he is convalescing.

Dr. Garcia Sabrido visited Havana last week to examine Mr. Castro and consult with his medical team.

“He hasnt got cancer,” Dr. Garcia Sabrido said, adding that he thinks Mr. Castro will become physically capable of running the country again. “While respecting confidentiality, I can tell you that President Castro is not suffering from any malignant sickness.”

Mr. Castro, 80, has not appeared in public since temporarily ceding power to his younger brother, Raul, after his surgery this summer. Dr. Garcia Sabrido declined to give details about Mr. Castros condition but said it was “a benign process in which there have been a series of complications.”

Cuban authorities have denied that Mr. Castro is suffering from terminal cancer, but his prolonged absence has fueled increasing speculation that he will not return to power.

Asked whether he thought Mr. Castro would be physically capable of once again governing Cuba, Dr. 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.”

He said he was impressed by Mr. Castros good spirits.

“His intellectual activity is intact, Id say fantastic,” the surgeon said. “I was amazed at his capacity to relate personal and historical anecdotes.

“He wants to return to work every day, but medical recommendations demand caution,” he said.

Some U.S. doctors say Mr. 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.

Dr. Garcia Sabridos specialty is in the digestive system and in transplants. In 1988, he wrote in the medical journal Archives of Surgery about a temporary stomach “zipper” that Spanish doctors had used on patients to provide repeated easy access for draining and treating abdominal infections.

On Monday, Spanish authorities confirmed that Dr. Garcia Sabrido had traveled to Cubas capital with advanced medical equipment to determine whether Mr. Castro needed additional surgery. Dr. Garcia Sabrido said yesterday that another operation was not immediately necessary.

“It is not planned that he will undergo another operation for the moment,” he said. “His condition is stable. He is recovering from a very serious operation.”

There was no mention of Dr. Garcia Sabridos visit in Cubas state press.

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