TV network reports Fidel Castro writes letter to Maradona

HAVANA (AP) -- Fidel Castro on Monday sent soccer legend Diego Maradona a letter written to quash rumors of the Cuban leader's death, state-run television network Telesur reported. It was the first reported word from Castro in nearly three months.

The network funded by Venezuela, Cuba and other allied governments showed photos of Maradona with the letter signed by Castro, 88, on Sunday night. Maradona told Telesur that the 4-page letter discussed global oil consumption, the release of three Cuba's intelligence agents by the U.S. last month and a recent summit of the leftist ALBA bloc of Latin American countries.

Telesur is broadcast on state television in Cuba, where Maradona has been filming episodes of a television show he hosts.

"I'm very happy to know he's well," Maradona told reporters at the Havana airport as he prepared to leave Cuba.

No images were shown of Castro, who has not appeared in public for more than a year, prompting widespread speculation about his health, and even recent rumors of his death on social media.

A serious illness forced Castro to step down from duties as president in 2006, handing over leadership to his younger brother Raul.

The new wave of speculation about Fidel Castro's health was prompted in part by his failure to comment after the U.S. and Cuba declared on Dec. 17 that they would move to restore full diplomatic relations broken a half century ago.

The most recent official photographs of Castro came out of a private meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Aug. 21. He was also photographed with the Chinese and Russian presidents in July.

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