The Washington Post
Thursday, August 10, 2006; 9:45 PM
CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Thursday he had exchanged letters with his friend and ally Fidel Castro, who is recovering from abdominal surgery.
Chavez, who has described the ailing Cuban leader as a father for Latin American socialists, said during a ceremony in eastern Venezuela that he received a letter from Castro on Wednesday.
"I received a message from Fidel yesterday," Chavez said on Thursday. "An emissary brought me a message that filled me with optimism and more faith. ... Fidel wrote me and said 'Chavez, I keep saying God protects Chavez and his friends."'
He also said he wrote Castro a handwritten letter, telling the veteran Cuban leader "you are fighting a great battle."
Chavez, who has greatly increased ties with Cuba since taking office in 1999, will dedicate his Sunday radio and television broadcast to Castro, who will turn 80 on that day.
Because of his surgery, Castro recently handed the reins of the Cuban government to his younger brother Raul, aged 75, while he recuperates from the surgery.
This week the government announced that Chavez' brother Adan was leaving his post as ambassador to Cuba to become the new presidential chief of staff.
"From here we accompany you every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every night of that great battle for life that you are fighting," Chavez said.
(With additional reporting by Deisy Buitrago)