But in the last week or so, Fidel has come off as a Phoenix-like character that has cheated death and is on the rebound, ready for a comeback. Fidel has done a little TV, checked in with a scientific think tank, and paid a visit to a memorial for members of the 26 de Julio Movement who died in the Revolution.
Fidel is on a road show, and for a guy his age, he's looking pretty good. Yes, he rambles. He is a bit in and out of keeping on track with the subject at hand, but he is walking, he is talking, and yes, he is apparently still alive.
There are those who think he is really dead and the guy you are seeing is a double. Maybe, not likely, because what you are seeing is classic Fidel. He will not let go. Thanks to his medical team he is grabbing a hold again.
What has been consistent since day one is Fidel has always been about Fidel. He has survived all others. Do a check list of who has disappeared, died, or just gone away. Che, Camillo, Ochoa, Matos, anyone who was a threat is history.
Cuba experts in Miami wonder why Fidel has spared his brother Raul. Is Fidel Castro so secure, so Machiavellian, that he can put Raul out there and feel that he, Fidel, can still pull the strings without worry? Did he pass power without passing the crown? Probably.
For Fidel it is all about survival, control and to this writing, he is winning. He has outlived many of the exiles that vowed to bring him down. He has defied and bewildered how many U.S. Presidents? Is he a medical miracle or is it just sheer will that drives him on?
Sheer will is probably the answer. Just read any of the better biographies of Fidel Castro and you will get the idea.
How much more are we going to see of the man that Cuban state-controlled media is once again calling "Commander in Chief?" Probably a lot in the next few days and weeks.
The question will then be asked: "Who is really in charge?"
Was it Fidel or was it Raul that worked with the Catholic Church to release the dissident prisoners? Was is really Raul that ok-ed the heat being taken off the Ladies in White? Was it Fidel or Raul who said yes to allow farmers to take over state land and operate individual farms and some businesspersons to own their own shops? Who figured it was smart to make nice with the European Union? Was Fidel the wizard behind the curtain?
He is the master of these kinds of moves to preserve the Revolution and his control. He is a guru when it comes to defusing pressure.
Times are curious on the Island, and Fidel still walks the land.
Hank Tester has been covering news and politics in South Florida since 1992.