Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and his state of health is so precarious that he has trouble feeding, speaking and recognizing people, said a Venezuelan physician who assured El Nuevo Herald that he has access to firsthand sources and information.

“He suffered an embolic stroke and recognizes absolutely no one,” said José Marquina, a respected doctor who in the past has claimed to have direct information about the illness affecting President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.

“The people with a condition of this nature have difficulty eating and, of course, they end up with total deficit in their neurologic capacities.”

Rumors about Castro’s health have circulated consistently in social networks and the media. But the speculations intensified recently, to the point that word spread that he had died and that the Cuban government would make an official announcement to that effect.

Castro was last seen in public in March, during the visit to Cuba of Pope Benedict XVI. Since June, he has not written his opinion columns, called “Reflections.” He did not send any message or congratulation to Chávez for his recent election victory.

Castro is in his home in El Laguito, Havana, receiving constant and specialized medical care, Marquina said. The idea of the Cuban authorities and Castro’s family is to maintain him alive and far from public view, the doctor said.

“He could last weeks like that, but what I can say is that we’ll never again see him in public,” said Marquina in a telephone interview from Naples.

Castro receives no therapy to improve his condition because his neurological state does not allow it, Marquina added. Marquina described Castro’s condition as “very close to a neurovegetative state.”

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