(L-R) Rev. Lucius Walker, former Pres. Fidel Castro, Ellen Bernstein, Rev. Tom Smith, meeting July 31. Photo courtesy, IFCO Pastors for Peace

WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – Cuban revolutionary leader and former President Fidel Castro “looks good,” is “strong,” is “taking care of himself,” and the Cuban people remain committed to “the revolution,” according to the founder of a New York-based church group that opposes the U.S. embargo of Cuba.

“Because of the negative news in so many corners in the U.S. media, I didn’t know what to expect,” the Rev. Lucius Walker, co-founder of IFCO Pastors for Peace told The Final Call.

“(Former President Fidel Castro) looks good! He has obviously gained weight, based on the images we saw two or three years ago.


“He’s strong; strong, handshake. Very alert mind. Just talking about a range of issues as always. He talked about his diet and his exercise regimen. So, he’s taking care of himself and he’s enjoying the opportunity to write and read and reflect,” the Rev. Walker continued, describing his July 31 meeting, which lasted several hours with Mr. Castro at a home near Havana.

The IFCO delegation also met with Cuban President Rául Castro on July 26, one of Cuba’s major national holidays. It is the date of the attack on the Moncada Barracks by a group of young revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro in 1953.

“He looked good, like he had gained weight, was sharp and articulate. I hadn’t seen him for three or four years. He showed tremendous signs of recovery from a very serious illness.”

The IFCO delegation was in Cuba to organize a 130-ton humanitarian aid shipment, the 20th organized by Pastors for Peace.

The Rev. Walker said he and Fidel Castro touched on health care, and U.S.-Cuba relations. “He spoke of the respect and appreciation he has for the president of the United States and has a recognition of the many responsibilities being faced by the Obama administration right now.”

During the delegation’s nine-day visit to Cuba, Pastors for Peace members fanned out to sample Cuban life. “The people across the country–we scattered, we went to three different provinces–and everywhere we went, people are with the revolution. It’s a major commitment. Old, young, and all in between,” the Rev. Walker said.

“So, the spirit of revolution among the people is undaunted, in our view. I was just, on every level impressed with the way things are moving forward.”

Pastors for Peace was delivering more than 130 tons of medical, food, construction, educational and other supplies through Mexico to Cuba. The shipments are in defiance of a 50-year-old U.S. imposed embargo on Cuba.

The group posted photographs of its meeting with Mr. Castro to coincide with Mr. Castro’s 83rd birthday Aug. 13. Mr. Castro spent his birthday out of the public eye but with an essay on the global economic crisis, climate change and immigration that headlined Cuban newspapers, according to the Associated Press.

In it, he criticized President Barack Obama and the leaders of Canada and Mexico for failing to resolve problems affecting Mexican immigration to the United States and Canada’s decision to impose new visa requirements on Mexicans.

Mr. Castro has published scores of essays, titled “Reflections.” The Rev. Walker said Mr. Castro “talked about how happy and pleased he is to be able to do his writing, a passion that might have been somewhat limited before because of the day-to-day responsibilities as president.”

Related links:

The U.S. Fails to Isolate Cuba Once Again (FCN, 07-07-2009)

Fidel Castro: A friend of revolution (FCN, 06-16-2009)

Video: Havana, Cuba Press Conference (FCN Webcast, 03-27-20006)