Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Chavez pays surprise visit to Cuba


HAVANA 12/06/2007 21:55


Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez was in Cuba Tuesday on a surprise visit to meet with his staunch ally and mentor, convalescing Cuban leader Fidel Castro, official media announced.

Chavez was to meet with Fidel Castro, 80, and his brother, interim leader Raul Castro, 76, the report said. Further details on Chavez's agenda were not immediately announced.

It was Chavez's sixth visit to Cuba since Fidel Castro took ill nearly one year ago.

Fidel Castro met on Thursday with leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales, who went home immediately after a lightning "working visit."

As Morales was seen off at Jose Marti international airport by Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage, he told reporters he found Fidel Castro "well on the road to recovery."

The Cuban leader has been recovering at an undisclosed location since he underwent intestinal surgery last July. He then handed over power temporarily to his brother, defense chief Raul Castro, on July 31.

Last weekend, Vietnam Communist Party chief Nong Duc Manh also held an unannounced meeting with Castro at the close of his three-day visit to Cuba.

Castro, during Manh's visit, was seen in his first TV interview since he took ill, and appeared to be looking better, but made no mention of any eventual return to power.

"All I can tell my fellow countrymen is what I've already said, that I'm now doing what I have to do, nothing else. There's no secret. I can't put it more clearly," he said.

Last week, however, Chavez was quoted as telling Fidel Castro, who has been pictured in video and still images in a track suit, "I think it is time for you to put your uniform back on."

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