MIAMI - The stunning announcement made simultaneously in Washington and Havana of renewed diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba after nearly 56 years has raised many questions.

Among the most prevalent: Where is Fidel Castro? And did he consent to the historic change? Or is the former Cuban leader in such deteriorated health that it no longer matters?

"Dictators need an enemy, the bigger the better," said former Cuban political prisoner Sebastian Arcos, who now serves as assistant director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. "I would be very surprised if Fidel Castro is conscious and approved this agreement."

Frank Mora, director of the Latin America and Caribbean Center at FIU, also doubts Castro green-lighted the new accord. "Fidel Castro always took advantage of an adversarial relationship with the United States," he said.

Castro, 88, ceded power to his younger brother Raul in 2008 after falling ill in 2006. But he continues to have a looming presence even though he is rarely publicly seen or heard.

Essays signed by him continue to be published in state-run newspapers, most recently on Oct. 14 in response to a New York Times editorial. And photos of meetings with foreign heads of state were published in July.

But Fidel Castro's last public appearance was on Jan. 8, when he attended the inauguration of an art gallery in Havana featuring the work of Cuban artist Alexis Leyva, a.k.a. Kcho.

Many Cuba watchers are now waiting to see whether Fidel Castro makes a statement about the agreement with the United States.