June 23, 2001

Castro falters during speech

                 HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) -- Two hours into a speech that was being
                 broadcast live to the nation on Saturday, Cuban President Fidel
                 Castro suddenly appeared faint and was led away from the podium by
                 his bodyguards.

                 Castro, 74, who is famous for talking as long as five hours without a break
                 and without water, started his remarks at 9:30 a.m. EDT. Dressed in his
                 traditional garb of battle fatigues, at 11:20 a.m. EDT, his speech slowed
                 and he appeared to be groping for words.

                As the camera cut away to pictures of the crowd, he was escorted to a seat,
                 where he remained for several minutes. Hundreds of people in the crowd
                 watched initially in confusion, and then began chanting, "Fidel! Fidel!"

                 A Cuban official then tried to calm the crowd and exhorted them to raise their
                 flags. He said Castro had participated in the dedication of a new ballet school
                 Friday night and had not eaten or slept.

                 A few minutes later, Castro resumed his remarks. "I'm okay," he said to
                 applause. "Don't worry." He said he would finish his speech later in the day
                 "when it's not so hot. I have things to say, and I want to finish."

                 He then concluded with his trademark closing phrase: "Patria o muerte --
                 Venceremos!" ("Fatherland or death -- We will overcome!")

                 In his speech, Castro denounced the conviction of five Cuban spies in Miami,
                 Florida, earlier this month.