Havana A relaxed and lucid Fidel Castro returned to the limelight Monday after years spent largely out of public view, discussing world events in a raspy voice in his most prominent television interview since falling seriously ill four years ago.
The 83-year-old former president talked about how tension between the United States and both North Korea and Iran could ultimately trigger a global nuclear war, in an interview on “Mesa Redonda” — or “Round Table” — a daily Cuban talk show on current events.
The conversation ranged widely, from Pakistan’s need for energy to America’s out of control defense spending and China’s decision to lend Cuba money to buy energy efficient light bulbs.
One thing Castro did not discuss were events in Cuba, where the government on Monday released and sent into exile the first of some 52 political prisoners they have promised to free in coming months.
The interview lasted about an hour and 15 minutes — but much of that time was spent with either Castro reading essays by someone else or having his own words read back to him by presenter Randy Alonso.
The scene at a sparsely lit office at an undisclosed location was slightly surreal, even in a country that often feels stuck in a 1950s time warp. It was even unclear whether the interview was live or when it might have been taped.
The revolutionary leader wore a dark blue track suit top over a plaid shirt as he took questions. Three academics sat silently nearby as Castro spoke, sometimes nodding in agreement.
As the interview progressed, Castro at times showed flashes of his prowess as a powerful speaker. At other points, however, he paused for lengthy periods and shuffled pages of notes he kept in front of him. Later, he listened as the host read back long tracks from essays Castro himself wrote recently.
The former Cuban leader has shunned the spotlight since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006. The illness forced him to step down — first temporarily, and later permanently — and cede power to his younger brother Raul. His recovery has been a closely held state secret, and his health has been the subject of persistent rumors among exiles in Florida.