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Still out of sight, Fidel Castro pens new book

He may be out of sight, but he's not out of mind: Though ailing Fidel Castro hasn’t appeared in public since July 2006, his new book, "La Paz en Colombia," explores Cuba's role in trying to end Colombia's civil war, his memories of that country, and his thoughts about the drug trade.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Cuba on Wednesday presented a new book by Fidel Castro, who has not appeared in public since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006 but who authorities claim spent more than 400 hours working on the manuscript.

“La Paz en Colombia,” or “Peace in Colombia,” explores Cuba's role in attempts to end Colombia's civil war, which has raged for more than four decades.

The 265-page book was presented during a Havana ceremony that Castro did not attend, though one of his sons was there, as was Ricardo Alarcon, head of the country's rubber-stamp parliament.

Several rounds of peace talks between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army, Colombia's second-largest guerrilla group, were held in Havana but did not lead to any major agreements.

The 82-year-old former president is the author of numerous books. He temporarily ceded power to his younger brother Raul in July 2006, then formally stepped aside in February.

Holed up in an undisclosed location, his condition and exact ailment have remained state secrets, though he has continued to sign essays published every few days in state-controlled newspapers.

His latest book contains documents pertaining to Colombia's peace process, as well as Castro's memories of the country. It includes the ex-president's musings on a number of topics, including his opinion that Colombia's problems with cocaine and heroin production and smuggling have been caused solely by demand for drugs on U.S. streets.

Speaking at the ceremony, Jose Arbeuz, head of the island's Communist Party's Americas Department, scoffed at the notion that Cuba had armed Colombian rebels in decades past, even though the island was known to have supported leftist causes around the region.

Culture Minister Abriel Prieto called Castro's latest book a "tribute" to Manuel Marulanda, co-founder of Colombia's largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, who died of a reported heart attack in March.

In addition to its publication in hard copy, the book will be offered electronically on a Web site that Castro uses to post his essays.