20132494410502734_20Cuban former head of state Fidel Castro made a rare appearance in Havana to cast his vote in the country’s parliamentary polls Sunday, taking time to talk to local voters and reporters at the scene.

An estimated 8.5 million Cubans voted in the polls, in which 612 members of the country’s national assembly were elected. The polls were hailed as progression for Cuban democracy by government officials, but the ballot featured no opposing candidates.

“I am convinced that Cubans are really a revolutionary people,” Castro told reporters at the El Vedad neighborhood polling station. “I don’t have to prove it. History has already proven it. And 50 years of the U.S. blockade have not been – nor will it be – able to defeat us.”

Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, who was recently granted her passport, commented on the one-sided nature of the weekend’s polls. “What strange elections, in which there is no choice and all the candidates think the same,” she wrote.

“It’s an electoral farce.”

Over the weekend, Castro also reported that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is getting “much better,” while recovery from cancer surgery in Cuba. Chavez left his country weeks after being elected for his fourth term as president to receive cancer treatment in Cuba. His most recent operation is his fourth for an undisclosed type of cancer in his pelvic region.

“He is much better, recovering. It has been a tough struggle, but he has been improving,” Castro was quoted as saying by Communist Party newspaper Granma. “We have to cure him. Chavez is very important for his country and for Latin America.”

The 58-year-old Venezuelan missed his scheduled inauguration on Jan. 10, and hasn’t make a public appearance since traveling to Cuba for treatment in December. Castro, 86, has also been in ill health in recent years, suffering from an intestinal illness.

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