Saturday, September 02, 2006

Latest images show lively Castro


Last Updated: Saturday, 2 September 2006, 06:01 GMT 07:01 UK

By Stephen Gibbs
BBC News, Havana

State-controlled TV in Cuba has shown new images of President Fidel Castro, apparently recovering from the gastric surgery he underwent over a month ago.

The Cuban leader is shown meeting the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who made an unannounced visit to Cuba on his return from a visit to Asia.

The taped images show Mr Castro sitting up in his bedclothes and taking part in animated conversation with Mr Chavez.

It appears that the visit was a surprise for the Cuban president.

He greets Mr Chavez with an affectionate hug.

The five-minute video is the second to be released since President Castro was taken ill more than a month ago.

Mystery ailment

He does seem to be recuperating well and is markedly more animated than he appeared in the previous video, which was taped on his 80th birthday on 13 August.

Mr Chavez says that his ally and friend is clearly recovering from his illness. It is still not clear what that illness is, as President Castro's health remains officially a state secret.

Neither is it yet known whether the man who has led Cuba for 47 years will recover sufficiently to resume his leadership role.

In the meantime, the country is ostensibly being run by a collective leadership, led by Mr Castro's younger brother, Raul, Cuba's defence minister.

Many Cubans see it as inevitable that Fidel Castro will be back in power shortly. The release of the video confirms that that is certainly a possibility.

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