June 2, 2011 / 6:06 PM / 8 years ago

Cuba's Raul Castro says he's in good shape at 80

HAVANA (Reuters) - A day before his 80th birthday, Cuban President Raul Castro declared himself in better shape than many men 20 years younger and asked the ladies to comment on his looks.

Cuba's President Raul Castro addresses the audience during the closing ceremony of Cuban communist congress in Havana April 19, 2011. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa

“How do I look, girls?” he said on Thursday, chatting with reporters at the Havana airport after seeing off former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the end of a two-day visit on Thursday.

“How many old men of 60 are there who aren’t like me?” Castro said, referring to his good physical condition.

Castro turns 80 on Friday, joining older brother and former President Fidel Castro, 84, in the octogenarian set. His first vice president, Jose Machado Ventura, is 80 and second vice president Ramiro Valdes is 79.

Raul Castro admitted at a Communist Party congress in April that the government had not groomed younger successors, but said it would set about doing so.

He also said the party would consider at a conference next January setting a limit of two five-year terms for future leaders.

Fidel Castro led Cuba for 49 years before officially ceding power to his brother in 2008 due to age and illness.

Raul Castro joked that he did not expect to serve the 10 years that would be permitted under the term-limit proposal.

“I don’t have two terms. I’m going for one,” he said.

Castro also said the government was in the midst of doing the legal work to put in action 313 economic reforms approved at the party congress.

“(It’s) hard,” he said. “There are so many things to sort out.”

Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by David Lawder

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