Sun, Sep 03, 2006 - Page 7 News List

New video shows El Comandante looking healthier

AFP , HAVANA

Cuban leader Fidel Castro appeared in a new video broadcast on Friday, chatting in his sickbed with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his brother Raul, Cuba's interim president.

The video shows Castro -- who is recovering from intestinal surgery and appeared healthier than in past footage -- lying on his back and reaching to shake hands with Chavez, then sitting up to kiss an unidentified girl.

Wearing a dark red bathrobe, Chavez hosted Chavez for a morning meeting that lasted more than two hours, government media reported.

In the video both leaders read written statements to each other.

"In the march towards victory, we shall prevail," they both said in unison facing each other, repeating a well-known leftist slogan.

No pictures or video of Castro have been seen in Cuba since Aug. 14.

Fidel Castro stunned Cubans when he announced in a statement on July 31 that he was recovering from intestinal surgery and had temporarily ceded power to Raul, 75, his constitutionally designated successor and the Caribbean nation's defense minister.

In the month since very little has changed in communist-run Cuba.

Cuba's Communist Party reaffirms daily that Fidel Castro's power handover is a plan to stave off any offensive by US President George W. Bush toward a political transition.

Washington recently unveiled a report from its Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba -- created in May 2004 and co-chaired by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- with the goal of accelerating political change in Cuba after Fidel.

The plan has a section kept secret for reasons of national security. That has sparked Cuban suspicions of likely aggression.

Chavez visited Castro on a stopover in Havana on his return from a 10-day trip to China, Malaysia, Syria and Angola.

"Fidel has recovered quite well," Chavez told a crowd of thousands of admirers in downtown Caracas later on Friday. "This morning, we talked more than two hours. We analyzed the world situation along with Raul Castro and other Cuban and Venezuelan comrades."

"We awoke this morning in Cuba, to visit comrade Fidel Castro, who asked me to send along a revolutionary salute. Long live Fidel! Long live the Cuban revolution!" Chavez shouted.

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