The Sun-Sentinel reports that Fidel Castro temporarily relinquished his presidential powers to his brother Raul on Monday night and told Cubans that he had undergone surgery.
The Cuban leader said he had suffered intestinal bleeding, apparently due to stress from recent public appearances in Argentina and Cuba, according to the letter read live on television by his secretary, Carlos Valenciaga.
Castro said that extreme stress “had provoked in me a sharp intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding that obligated me to undergo a complicated surgical procedure.”
Castro said he had undergone surgery and was temporarily relinquishing the presidency to his brother and successor Raul, the defense minister.
He said the move was of “a provisional character.”
He said celebrations scheduled for his 80th birthday on Aug. 13 were to be postponed until Dec. 2, the 50th anniversary of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces.
Castro said he would also temporarily relinquish his duties as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba to Raul, who turned 75 in June and who has been taking on a more public profile in recent weeks.
In power since the triumph of the Cuban revolution on Jan. 1, 1959, Castro is the world’s longest ruling head of government. Only Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, crowned in 1952, has been head of state longer.