HAVANA - Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro emerged from seclusion on Tuesday to muse about death and provide encouragement to his followers, in a rare speech at the closing of a Communist Party congress in Havana.
"Soon I will be 90 years old," he said. "Soon I will be like all the rest. Everybody's turn comes," Castro, whose birthday is Aug. 13, told 1,300 party activists gathered at a Havana convention center where he delivered countless, hours-long speeches during his rule.
Cries of "Fidel, Fidel" once again rang out as the now frail former leader made his most extensive public appearance in years, speaking with a strong, if slightly hoarse, voice.
"Perhaps this will be one of the last times I speak in this room," said Castro, sporting a blue tracksuit jacket, glasses and wispy gray beard.
"The ideas of Cuban Communists will remain," he said, "as proof that on this planet, if you work hard and with dignity, you can produce the material and cultural goods human beings need."