Cuba was on tenterhooks on Tuesday over Fidel Castro's fragile health, as residents of the Communist island awaited a visiting Spanish doctor's diagnosis on whether additional surgery is needed.
Officials in Madrid confirmed on Tuesday that a Spanish surgeon had been dispatched to Cuba to treat Castro, 80, who has not been seen in public for five months. Few medical updates have been made public since his reported intestinal surgery.
"The Cuban government decided to ask one of our top professionals to care for its president," Manuel Lamela, health councilor for Madrid's regional government, told reporters.
"When a government asks for help or collaboration, health officials respond," Lamedo added, appearing to confirm a Spanish newspaper report, which identified the physician as Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido, head of surgery at Madrid's Gregorio Maranon hospital.
Castro's brother, interim leader Raul Castro, has said the Cuban leader's recovery continues apace, but his continued absence from the public eye has fuelled widespread speculation that he may be seriously ill and perhaps even near death.
US Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte told the newspaper The Washington Post earlier this month that Castro was likely to survive "months, not years.