Fidel Castro signed a lengthy essay saluting a Cuban political figure but giving no hint of how he is feeling, even amid rampant rumors of his death. The 81-year-old Castro has not been seen in public in over a year and has not even appeared in official photographs or video footage since taping an interview with Cuban state television June 5. The lack of images has fueled speculation among the Cuban exile community in Miami and elsewhere that Castro might have died. He announced on July 31, 2006, that he had undergone emergency intestinal surgery and was temporarily ceding power to his younger brother Raul. Officials in Havana have refused to speak about Castro's condition, but Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told reporters in Brazil last week that "Fidel is doing very well and is disciplined in his recovery process." He insisted the gray-bearded leader maintains "permanent" contact with top government officials.