ASSOCIATED PRESS

What does Fidel Castro think of the U.S.-Cuba deal? We don't know — he hasn't said anything yet.

In the wake of the historic announcement that the United States and Cuba will reestablish diplomatic ties, one of the key figures in more than 50 years of hostility between the two countries has yet to publicly react to the news.

The former longtime Cuban leader has not made a public appearance or offered his views since the diplomatic breakthrough was first announced last week by President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro.

“You’d expect him to say something about this,” said Phil Peters, director of the Virginia-based Cuba Research Center.

Fidel Castro, 88, resigned from the presidency in 2008, ceding power to his younger brother Raul two years after falling ill and undergoing surgery. His health largely remains a state secret, and the issue is rarely addressed officially.

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Since then, he has mostly maintained a public profile by writing essays and columns about world affairs published in state-run newspapers.

Prolonged absences by Castro have often triggered speculation about his health. Last year,  Castro made his first extended public appearance after three years when he voted in Cuba’s general election and chatted with Cuban reporters. He was last seen in January when he attended an art exhibition in Havana.

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Official photos released in July showed him meeting in the Cuban capital with  Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Some Cuba watchers say the elder Castro’s silence might be explained by the fact that he no longer holds an official government position.

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“His comments have been confined to global and international affairs and not Cuban domestic policy,” said Peters. “You have to assume he’s consulted on things from time to to time, but all evidence indicates the Cuban government has been running fully without him at the helm.”

Others noted that in recent years Castro has been known to take his time before weighing in on  pivotal issues.

In 2013, Castro commented about the death of his ally and close friend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, six days after the news was announced. Weeks later, Castro was filmed at the opening of a school and appeared emotional as a song was played to remember Chavez.

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“I expect we’ll be hearing from him,” Peters said.