Saturday, August 05, 2006

Well wishes for Castro amid report of tumor

Reuters, South Africa

Sat Aug 5, 2006 4:49 PM GMT

By Anthony Boadle

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba's most popular musicians wished ailing leader Fidel Castro a quick recovery on Saturday amid speculation that his top ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, was planning a visit and a report from Brazil that the Cuban president had a stomach tumor.

There was no sign of Castro, who relinquished power five days ago to his brother Raul after intestinal surgery, and his designated successor has also remained out of the public view.

"It is a delicate moment ... I trust in our Armed Forces and our people," said Juan Formell, leader of Cuba's most popular salsa band, Los Van Van, in a "get well" note published by the ruling Communist Party newspaper, Granma.

Other messages of support for Castro and his government came from singers Pablo Milanes and Silvio Rodriguez.

The Association of Combatants of the Revolution, which groups veterans from Castro's guerrilla struggle in the Sierra Maestra mountains to wars in Angola and Ethiopia, asked him to look after his health so he could continue to lead Cuba.

Two Cabinet ministers said on Friday that the 79-year-old revolutionary was recovering.

But Brazil's Folha de S. Paulo newspaper said the Brazilian government had been told that Fidel Castro had a malignant stomach tumor. The paper did not identify its sources.

"It looks like we will lose our friend," Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was quoted as telling an aide.

In Caracas, a government source said Chavez canceled a trip to Bolivia amid reports he might fly to Cuba to see Castro, which could indicate the Cuban leader was lucid and in a condition to receive visitors.

The populist Venezuelan leader has helped keep Cuba's government afloat since the collapse of its former benefactor the Soviet Union through cheap oil and billion-dollar payments for Cuban doctors to work in Venezuelan slums.

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