HAVANA Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro is in good health and working hard though he is "dismayed" over the recent death of his close friend, Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cuba's government said on Friday.
"His health is very good. He's working intensely on the things he has been doing recently, and of course he has been very dismayed by the death of Garcia Marquez, who was his close friend," Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel told reporters in Havana.
Castro, 87, last appeared in public in January. He writes occasionally about current events and receives visiting dignitaries at his home, but he has remained publicly silent since the death of Garcia Marquez on April 17.
Cuban state media reported that Castro had sent a wreath to Garcia Marquez's memorial service this week in Mexico City.
Diaz-Canel, 54, is first in line of succession after Cuban President Raul Castro, 82, who took over for his ailing brother as leader of the communist state in 2008. The vice-president spoke after signing a book of condolences for Garcia Marquez at the Colombian consulate in Havana.
Garcia Marquez's death came 13 months after that of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, another close friend and ally of Fidel Castro.
"Fidel is a man of great human sensitivity and for that reason he feels the loss of a friend," Diaz-Canel said. "But he is also a man who has experienced a lot of battles and has lost a lot in this world, so he has an inner strength for these problems."
Castro came to power in 1959 as a 32-year-old guerrilla leader and led Cuba for 49 years until failing health led him to hand over power to his younger brother, at first provisionally in 2006 and then definitively in 2008.