14ymedio, Havana, 18 April 2020 — Raúl Castro reappeared this Friday after a long public absence to preside over a meeting to analyze the current situation of Covid-19 in Cuba, according to official press reports. The former president had not been seen in any official image since late February.
As first secretary of the Communist Party, wearing a military uniform and mask, Castro reviewed with other officials “the Plan for the prevention and control of the new coronavirus,” according to a brief note in the state-run newspaper Granma. The meeting “also evaluated the effects on the performance of the national economy generated by the pandemic.”
Also present at the meeting were President Miguel Díaz-Canel, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero and the second secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), José Ramón Machado Ventura.
Castro’s prolonged absence from the public eye, at age 88, had aroused speculation and criticism, in a country where the health of political leaders has always been surrounded by the utmost secrecy. In the streets, many Cubans complained that the leader of the only party allowed on the Island had not sent a message during the current emergency.
The Constitution approved a year ago establishes, in Article 5, the status of the Communist Party as the “superior leading political force of society and the State,” so the organization’s first secretary must lead the policy to be followed in the nation.
After the publication of the news this Friday, several commentators on official digital sites lamented that fragments of what had been discussed at the meeting where Castro was present had not been broadcast on national television. “So that the people would know directly what is being discussed and how it is being discussed in the government, in the party, without having a journalist as an intermediary,” said one Internet user.
Previously, the official media had made reference to the former governor’s participation in a meeting of the PCC Political Bureau, but images of the meeting were never released, fueling popular rumors.
Coincidentally with Castro’s absence in Cuba, Nicaraguan Daniel Ortega went 34 days without showing himself in public. The 74-year-old president reappeared on Thursday and delivered a speech in which he criticized the United Nations Organization and defended his strategy of not taking preventive measures against the pandemic.
The Nicaraguan government has not ordered the closure of borders, compulsory quarantines, the cancellation of massive events or classes in schools.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently expressed concern about the management of the coronavirus in Nicaragua.
“The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has been concerned about the response to Covid-19 seen in Nicaragua. We are concerned about the lack of social distancing, the convening of mass meetings,” said PAHO/WHO director Carissa Etienne.
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