Doctor who said Castro was ill comes out of hiding

Nicholas Garbis ngarbis at
Tue Jul 28 12:26:21 PDT 1998

Published Tuesday, July 28, 1998, in the Miami Herald Doctor who said Castro was ill comes out of hiding

>From Herald Wire Services

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- A Cuban doctor who said that Fidel Castro was hospitalized last year appeared before Costa Rican authorities Monday and said she plans to settle in Costa Rica. Elizabeth Trujillo said the Costa Rican government has offered her its protection. Foreign Minister Roberto Rojas said, however, that at this time she ``cannot receive political asylum.'' After a more than hourlong interview with Trujillo, Rojas told reporters that ``for now, [Trujillo] entered Costa Rica illegally and it is up to immigration authorities to determine the status'' that she deserves. Trujillo also restated her assertion that the Cuban president suffered last year from dangerously high blood pressure. It was the first public appearance for Trujillo, who fled to Costa Rica in April and remained in hiding in this country. In an interview published July 19 in The Herald, Trujillo said the Cuban president was hospitalized in Havana last Oct. 22-28, suffering from hypertensive encephalopathy. On Thursday, however, Castro described that allegation as ``a lie, from top to bottom,'' and insisted that he is in good health. He said that Trujillo is not a doctor and that she never worked at the hospital in question. ``The comandante was indeed hospitalized,'' Trujillo said Monday at a news conference. ``Fidel Castro has spent 36 years lying to the Cuban people,'' she said, alluding to Castro's statement that he had not been hospitalized. Trujillo's credentials were questioned again Monday by an exiled Cuban nurse, who told Miami radio station WQBA that Trujillo is not a physician. ``She is not really a doctor,'' said Maria Elena Martinez. ``I met this woman in Santiago de las Vegas, at house of some friends. It is true that her husband, Dr. Ochoa, is a physician, but she is not. She is lying.'' Trujillo's account of Castro's health has been questioned by United States officials, who cite the Vatican's senior spokesman, Joaquin Navarro Valls, as saying that he met with Castro for six hours during the time the Cuban president was said to be ill. In reply, Trujillo said Monday that ``anything could have happened, because nobody checked the departures'' at the hospital. When asked how Castro could have delivered a five-hour speech Sunday night in Santiago de Cuba if he suffered that serious an illness, she answered: ``It would be best if you asked Castro's bedside doctor about that.'' In that speech, Castro again ridiculed the reports of his illness, saying he never had heard of hypertensive encephalopathy or of Elizabeth Trujillo. ``Every once in a while, they kill me off,'' Castro said. ``The day I die, no one will believe it.'' He also accused U.S. intelligence agencies and U.S-based anti-Castro groups of planning and financing terrorist attacks against Cuba, and claimed he has proof to back up his allegations. Castro said the Cuban American National Foundation financed assassination attempts against him, blew up a Cuban airliner over Barbados in 1976 and carried out the bombings that damaged hotels in Havana last year.

Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald

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