Mon, Aug 14, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Cuba's Castro reported to be talking

`FIRM LIKE A CAGUAIRAN' The Communist Party's official newspaper reported that the `Comandante' was as solid as a Cuban tree and having `animated' conversation

AP , HAVANA

A picture released by the Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde released yesterday shows one of the first pictures of Cuban President Fidel Castro taken after his gasterointestinal surgery, with Castro quoted as saying, ``I feel very happy.'' Castro, who turned 80 today, appeared alert and in good spirits and displayed no discernible weight loss.

PHOTO: AFP

The first photographs of Cuban President Fidel Castro since his illness two weeks ago were published yesterday in Cuba's Communist Youth newspaper with a statement by the Cuban leader that on his 80th birthday "I feel very happy."

"For all those who care about my health, I promise to fight for it," said the statement attributed to Castro in Juventud Rebelde newspaper, but cautioned that he still faced risks.

"To say that the objective stability has considerably improved is not making up a lie. I ask you all to be optimistic, and at the same time to be ready to face any adverse news," the statement read.

"To affirm that the recovery period will take a short time and that there is no risk would be absolutely incorrect," it said.

"To the people of Cuba, infinite gratitude for your loving support. The country is marching on and will continue marching on perfectly well," it said.

The online edition of the newspaper also published four photographs of Castro wearing what looked like a white and red running suit. In two of them he is talking on the telephone and in another he is showing a copy of the Saturday edition of Granma, the Communist Party newspaper.

On Saturday, Granma carried a report that stated that Castro was walking and talking again, and even working a bit in the most optimistic report yet since intestinal surgery forced him to temporarily step aside as president.

Meanwhile, his close friend and political ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said on Saturday that he would visit the Cuban leader.

"Tomorrow I will be with Fidel celebrating his 80th birthday," Chavez said at a news conference in Caracas after declaring his candidacy for re-election in December.

"I'll take him a nice gift, a good cake, and we'll be celebrating the 80 years of this great figure of America and our history," Chavez said.

Chavez also visited Castro in October 2004, two weeks after a fall that shattered the Cuban leader's kneecap and broke his right arm. A picture of the pair on the front page of Granma was the first image published of Castro after the accident.

Saturday's article in the Granma -- though brief -- was the most detailed statement Cuba's government has issued since Castro announced July 31 that he was temporarily ceding his powers to his younger brother Raul, the government's No. 2 leader.

Fidel Castro said his condition during his recovery would be treated as a "state secret," so as not to give any advantage to his enemies in the US.

"Firm Like a Caguairan," the Granma headline read, comparing Castro to a hardwood tropical tree native to eastern Cuba.

"A friend tells us that just a few hours ago, upon visiting the Comandante who was briefly dispatching some business, he witnessed some good news that he enthusiastically summed up in one sentence: `The Caguairan has risen,'" the paper said in a three-paragraph report.

"He said that he could appreciate how the Chief of the Revolution, after receiving a little physical therapy, took some steps in his room and then, seated in a chair, conversed animatedly," the report said, without identifying the friend.

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