Published: Friday, April 13, 2007
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Friday said his close friend and ally Fidel Castro has "almost totally recovered" from his illness, and Cuba's foreign minister said the ailing leader is getting stronger every day.
Speaking at a televised news conference, Chavez said the Cuban leader's marked improvement is clear.
"Almost totally recovered is the very reliable information that I keep receiving," Chavez said. "The reports that I have and that keep arriving speak of - and not only the reports but his own notes, his voice on the telephone ... a doctor would say real recovery."
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Roque, travelling in Vietnam, said Castro had improved steadily.
"President Fidel Castro is recovering very well," Roque told reporters after an hour-long meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart, Pham Gia Khiem.
Castro, 80, hasn't made any public appearances since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery last July, when he ceded his leadership responsibilities to his brother Raul, the Cuban defence minister.
Castro's condition and exact ailment remain a state secret, but he is widely believed to suffer from diverticular disease, a weakening of the walls of the colon that can cause sustained bleeding.
Roque said Castro was back to his pre-surgery weight, did regular rehabilitation exercises and had resumed some of his leadership duties.
"He receives reports about the country's situation and is directly involved in managing some important issues," Roque said.
There has been a growing expectation on the island that Castro will soon make a public appearance, but in recent weeks he has appeared only as the author of three written articles.