Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro has told supporters he is too sick to attend the opening ceremony of his 80th birthday celebrations, raising further concerns over the state of his health. In a published message, Castro said doctors would not allow him to be at the gala at Havana’s Karl Marx Theatre. He has not appeared in public since undergoing intestinal surgery in late July. Castro temporarily handed over power to his brother Raul, and was last seen looking gaunt and frail in video footage broadcast at the end of October.
The birthday festivities were originally scheduled for August but were postponed as a result of the President’s illness. Fifteen hundred guests from 80 countries are expected at the event, including Bolivian President Evo Morales and the Colombian Nobel laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, Castro’s top ally, and fellow critic of the United States, is not expected as he faces a Presidential election on Sunday.