The elder Castro had not been heard from nor seen in public since his brother Raul's historic U.S.-Cuba rapprochement last month, and the silence has re-ignited speculation about his health.

"Fidel is doing very well," Maradona told the regional Telesur station, as he held up the letter. "Here's the signature ... I'm showing it to you so you can show it to the world."

Chatter about his demise has dogged Castro periodically since the 1959 Cuban revolution, but became more frequent in recent years because of health problems that forced him to step down from power in favor of his younger brother.

The last public word from Fidel Castro was an October 17 column in state media.

Set up to counterbalance Western-based TV networks like CNN and the BBC, Telesur is financed by leftist governments in Latin America, Venezuela in particular.

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