It was a New Year’s message, but not in person. A statement from Cuba’s ailing leader Fidel Castro has been read out on state television. “Regarding my recovery, I always said it would be a long process. However, it is far from being a lost battle.” Not seen in public since July, the 80-year-old has had abdominal surgery for a condition being kept secret by authorities. “Everyone was anxious to hear a message from him, or something,” said one resident. “It’s been a while since he said something. Now, we all know he’s recovering.” “He is very much alive,” said another. “We’re going to have Fidel around for a long time.” Castro has temporarily handed power over to his brother. Amid speculation he is terminally ill, a Spanish doctor who recently treated him denies he has cancer, saying there could be a full recovery.