Google News gulfnews - Havana, Cuba: The ailing Fidel Castro did not show up at a huge military parade yesterday marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces, fuelling speculation about the severity of his condition and the possibility he may not return to power.
Acting President Raul Castro, who is Fidel's younger brother and the island's defence minister, led the event instead, giving a speech in which he reached out for dialogue with the US government, which has a decades-old trade and travel embargo against the communist-run island.
"We take this opportunity to once again state that we are willing to resolve at the negotiating table the long-standing dispute between the United States and Cuba as long as said resolution is based on the principle of equality, reciprocity, noninterference and mutual respect," Raul Castro said.
"In the meantime, after almost half a century, we are willing to wait patiently until the moment when common sense prevails in Washington power circles," he said.
The acting president still criticised the United States, particularly its involvement in the Iraq war and attempts to "annex Latin America" through its regional trade policies. He did not explain his brother's absence in his half-hour speech.
Cubans and Castro supporters as well as foes around the world had speculated all week whether the leader, recovering from intestinal surgery, would show. The military event, which lasted about two hours, culminated five days of events - none of which were attended by Castro - to celebrate the leader's birthday.
The Cuban leader turned 80 on August 13.
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