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Fidel Castro describes aches and pains of aging

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 12, 2013 at 11:23 am •  Published: February 12, 2013

HAVANA (AP) — Retired Cuban President Fidel Castro complained of a bad knee, weak eyesight and difficulty adjusting to changes in light during a lengthy interview session with state-run media published Tuesday.

The 86-year-old revolutionary icon also praised Cuban election officials for building a new entrance to his polling site, eliminating the need for him to climb stairs, which he indicated had been difficult since a fall in 2004.

"I asked various people who work with me the number of steps and the height of the stairway at the entrance," Castro said in an informal back-and-forth with several Cuban journalists conducted on Feb. 3, the day he cast a ballot in a legislative election. "My shattered knee ... has taken its toll."

Castro is rarely seen in public, and more rarely still speaks about Cuban affairs. While his appearance at the voting station had been reported earlier, the majority of his comments had not.

Tuesday's edition of the Communist Party daily Granma transcribes the entire encounter over five full pages, and reports that the transcript has been "revised and updated by the interviewee."

Castro also speaks passionately about his ailing ally and friend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is battling cancer at a Cuban hospital and has not been seen in public for more than two months.

"When he was in full (political) combat, he neglected his health and he dedicated himself to the fight," he said.

As for his own health, Castro acknowledges having difficulty reading the small print in Granma and on his television screen, adding that "changes in light bother my eyes."

The former Cuban leader's comments were published a day after 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world by announcing he was stepping down due to physical and mental weariness, becoming the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years.

The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, said Benedict made the decision to resign after his March 2012 trip to Mexico and Cuba, an exhausting visit under the broiling Caribbean sun where he met the two Castros and was treated to a raucous and warm welcome.

The meeting with Fidel began with the two men joking about their ages.

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