New Castro Letter Bashes Ethanol

In this photo released by Cuba's daily newspaper Juventud Rebelde, Cuba's leader Fidel Castro, left, meets with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, unseen, in Havana, Monday, Jan. 29, 2007. (AP Photo/Juventud Rebelde)
AP Photo/Juventud Rebelde
This article was written by Havana-based CBS News producer Portia Siegelbaum.

Convalescing Cuban President Fidel Castro has issued his sixth editorial weighing-in on the current bio-fuel debate.

The government emailed an advance copy of the statement to the foreign press Wednesday evening. It's expected that the column will be published in the official state media Thursday morning.

Castro has not appeared in public for more than nine months now — since intestinal bleeding necessitated surgery, and forced him to turn power over to his designated successor, and younger brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro.

Cubans have only seen Castro in photos and video released periodically by the government via the state-run media. However, since last March, the 80-year-old former revolutionary has been expressing his views in editorials, dubbed, "Reflections of the Commander in Chief".

His latest column again warns that ethanol is not all it's cracked up to be, and charges that it's "false" to say ethanol is a "green and clean" alternative to fossil fuels.

Castro also cautions against using a food source to produce fuel for developed countries - possibly to the detriment of the diet of the world's poor. Castro says it's an "advance" that the debate on the merits of bio-fuels is heating up at the United Nations and in the global scientific community.

The Cuban leader has always focused on the issues of world hunger, poverty and the unequal distribution of wealth between developed and developing countries. He has shown a spotlight on issues ranging from the foreign debt of poorer nations, which he's called "un-payable", to infant mortality from preventable diseases.

There had been great expectation, fueled by encouraging comments from other government figures, that Castro would attend the annual workers' day parade on May 1, but he failed to appear, leaving his brother to head the event.

Still, officials refuse to rule out his return to power.

President of the Cuban parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, a close Castro confidante, recently told CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan that Castro, "is a man of big surprises."

"I will never forecast anything about him, because I know he is a very strong and healthy human being, highly motivated. Motivation — the sense of service, of mission that he has — may lead to many things that for others would be miracles," said Alcaron. "In his case, it would be normal, the normal way he has always lived."

  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.