Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro reportedly suffered a stroke recently and is in a near-vegetative state, according to a Venezuelan doctor who spoke to a Miami-based newspaper.

The physician Jose Marquina spoke from Naples, Fla., but claimed he had access to firsthand sources.

“[Castro] suffered an embolic stroke and recognizes absolutely no one,” Marquina told El Nuevo Herald.

“The people with a condition of this nature have difficulty eating, and, of course, they end up with total deficit in their neurologic capacities.”

According to Marquina, Castro is receiving around-the-clock medical care at his home in Havana.

“He is not receiving artificial respiration and is not connected to tubes, as some have said. What’s probably true is that Castro is being fed through nasogastric tubes,” Marquina told the Herald.

“He could last weeks like that, but what I can say is that we’ll never again see him in public,” he added.

Within the past two weeks, rumors surfaced that Castro’s health was failing, some reporting he had died. Castro’s close family members came out to deny the rumors, saying the 86-year-old was in good health.

"The Comandante is well, going about his daily life, reading, doing his exercises," his son Alex Castro told Cuban weekly newspaper Venceremos last week, the Associated Press reported.

Since Castro stepped down as Cuba’s president in 2008 due to an unspecified illness, speculation about his health has been a consistent theme in local discourse. In 2006, he underwent abdominal surgery, which fueled rumors that he had terminal cancer, though they were never confirmed.

Castro’s absence from the public sphere in recent months, however, has increased speculation about his condition.

The former Cuban leader has not appeared in public since March, when Pope Benedict XVI visited the island nation, during which Castro appeared frail, requiring assistance to walk.

His regular opinion column in state-run Granma newspaper Reflections has also not appeared since June, with his latest writings increasingly incoherent and significantly shorter than previous articles, which comprised lengthy diatribes on a variety of subjects from politics to culture.

In one of his last columns published in June, Castro wrote a brief reflection on yoga.

“Yogis do things with the human body which are beyond our imagination. There they are, before our eyes, via images arriving instantaneously from vast distances, through Pasaje a lo Desconocido ['Passage to the Unknown'],” he wrote.

More recently, following socialist ally Hugo Chavez’s election victory in Venezuela, he did not send any formal message of congratulations.

However, the Herald also reported that according to Marquina, Chavez flew into Havana Tuesday to visit his comrade prompted by concerns about his rapidly declining health.