Tuesday, January 30, 2007

He's Back

Posted on Tue, Jan. 30, 2007

Cuba TV shows Castro meeting with Chavez

Associated Press

HAVANA - Cuban state television Tuesday showed a video of a healthier looking Fidel Castro meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and saying his recovery was "far from a lost battle," in the first images of the ailing leader shown in three months.

Castro stood and appeared alert in the 10-minute video clip, which state TV said was shot during Chavez's previously unannounced visit to Havana on Monday.

The video seemed to be aimed at knocking down recent rumors about Castro's health, including a report that he was in grave condition.

Castro looked heavier than in previous images that had showed him much more thin and frail. Dressed in a red, white and blue track suit, the 80-year-old was shown sitting and drinking juice.

"This also is far from being a lost battle," Castro said of his current health problems.

He noted that when his severe intestinal problems struck last summer he was still not fully recovered from a devastating October 2004 fall that severely injured a knee and a shoulder. "One after the other," Castro said of his health troubles.

Later in the video, Chavez was even more optimistic, saying Castro had already won the battle to recover his health. The Venezuelan president's brother, Education Minister Adan Chavez, was also seen in the video visiting Castro.

The broadcast came six months after Castro's July 31 announcement that he had undergone intestinal surgery and was provisionally ceding power to his younger brother Raul.

Castro had looked thinner and frailer in the last video images, which aired on Oct. 28.

The date that Tuesday's video was taken could not be immediately confirmed. In it, Chavez said the two-hour private meeting took place on Monday and ended at 3 p.m. on Jan 29. In Caracas, a presidential spokeswoman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, confirmed that Chavez made a one-day visit to Havana on Monday.

On the video, Castro was also heard reading aloud a headline from a printout of an article dated Saturday from the Web version of Argentine newspaper Clarin.

Castro stunned the nation six months ago when he temporarily stepped aside for his younger brother, the 75-year-old defense minister. Since then, Raul Castro has led the nation at the head of a collaborative leadership that has kept the government running calmly in his brother's absence from public life.

Castro has not been seen in public since July 26 - five days before he stepped aside.

Cuban officials told visiting U.S. lawmakers last month that Castro does not have cancer or a terminal illness and will eventually return to public life, although it was not clear whether he would return to the same kind of absolute control as before.

In the latest video, Chavez said he found his friend to be "of good humor, with a good face and in good spirits." He said the pair discussed a variety of issues, including the world's energy crisis, and that Castro showed "much clarity, as always in his ideas and analysis."

A report in the Spanish newspaper El Pais earlier this month said the Cuban leader was in "very grave" condition. The paper, citing two unnamed medical sources from Gregorio Maranon hospital in Madrid, had reported Castro was still recovering after three failed operations and complications from an intestinal ailment common in older people called diverticulitis.

The hospital employs surgeon Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido, who flew to Cuba in December to treat Castro. The article's authors later said Garcia Sabrido was not among their sources and he later dismissed much of the report as half-truths and rumors.

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