Fidel Castro makes first public appearance in nearly a year

10:57 PM, Jan 9, 2014   |    comments
The bearded, grey haired 87-year-old Cuban leader was also shown sitting and chatting with Alexis Leyva, the painter and sculptor known as Kcho, and others attending the opening.
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Havana, Cuba (CBS News) -- Former Cuban President Fidel Castro made a surprise appearance Wednesday evening, Jan. 8 at the opening of a Havana Cultural Centre sponsored by one of his favorite Cuban artists.

State television on Thursday broadcast images of Castro arriving at the Cultural Center in a blue van, to the applause of local residents.

The bearded, grey haired 87-year-old Cuban leader was also shown sitting and chatting with Alexis Leyva, the painter and sculptor known as Kcho, and others attending the opening.

Levya welcomed Fidel to the event.

"Today we are celebrating the 55th anniversary of Fidel's entrance to Havana and the fact that Fidel has come here to see this project is something very emotional for me, I'm very emotional right now."

A witness, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters a stooped Castro arrived in the evening and entered the building with the help of aides and a cane, after briefly talking with well wishers in the Playa municipality of Havana.

The reclusive Castro was last seen in public in April 2013 at the inauguration of a school in Havana.

Castro lives in a villa on the outskirts of Havana where he regularly receives guests, but photos are rare and only occasionally do his writings appear in the local media.

He is reportedly still lucid and curious.

Castro governed the Caribbean island for 48 years before falling gravely ill in 2006 and handing power over to his brother, Raul Castro, who officially became president in 2008. 

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