Chavez says Cuba's Castro has visibly improved, gained weight
By NATALIE OBIKO PEARSON
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that Cuba's Fidel Castro has visibly improved, describing how the ailing Cuban leader has gained weight and is walking around and studying."A notable improvement," Chavez said Thursday, describing Castro's condition when the two met recently in Havana.
"He has gained several kilograms, and I think he is walking about more than me, analyzing, studying," Chavez said at a news conference in Caracas.
Footage of the meeting aired by Cuban state television on Tuesday evening were the first video images of the 80-year-old Cuban leader released in three months.
Cuba's communist government has kept Castro's condition and exact ailment secret, which has led to speculation by some that he was gravely ill. Images of the meeting, which officials from both governments say took place Monday, appeared to be aimed at quelling those rumors.
Chavez held up a copy of the Cuban Communist Party daily Granma with pictures from the meeting and pointed at a photo.
"They said Fidel was dying," he said with a laugh. "He was having a ball."
Cuban authorities have insisted that Castro is recovering, and have denied reports by U.S. intelligence officials that he had terminal cancer, although they stopped insisting weeks ago that Castro would return to power.
During the half-year since Castro announced he had undergone intestinal surgery, the nation has been governed by his brother Raul and a team of top leaders that includes Vice President and Cabinet Secretary Carlos Lage.