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Sister, son deny rumors of Castro's ill-health

HAVANA -- Fidel Castro's relatives in Cuba and Miami denied the latest round of rumors about the 86-year-old former president's supposedly declining health, after his prolonged public silence set the Twitterverse aflame with speculation in recent days.

“The Comandante is well, going about his daily life, reading, doing his exercises,” son Alex Castro was quoted as saying by Arlin Alberty Loforte, a reporter for the Venceremos weekly newspaper in the eastern city of Guantanamo.

The exchange came at an exhibition of portraits that the younger Castro, a photographer, has taken of his father since 2010. It appeared on Alberty's website Friday, was reposted by a prominent pro-government blogger known as Yohandry Fontana and state news agency AIN also reported Alex Castro's comments without directly quoting him.

Later Friday, sister Juanita Castro discounted versions that she was traveling from her Florida home back to Cuba to be with family.

“I have no news,” she said. “I have no plans to travel. That's not true ... These are pure rumors, it's all absurd.”

Speculation about Fidel Castro's purported decline, which seems to surface every few months, became grist for the rumor mill again this week when he did not publicly congratulate ally Hugo Chavez on winning re-election in a hard-fought Venezuelan presidential race.

“Does anybody know if #FidelCastro has sent congratulations to #HugoChavez?” dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez tweeted earlier this week. “Because some silences are resounding.”

Castro has not been seen in public since video images showed him greeting a visiting Pope Benedict XVI in late March, and the last of his essays known as “Reflections” was published June 19.

Of late, those had taken on a brief, esoteric nature that left Cubans and analysts alike scratching their heads, and exiles in Miami speculating about his grasp on reality.

Castro has been mostly out of sight since he left office in 2006 due to a life-threatening intestinal condition. His health and location are secret, and at times the only word on how he's doing comes in rosy assessments from his close friend Chavez.

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