"I think the time has come for him to put on his uniform"
That from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez when asked about his thoughts on his friend Fidel Castro, and when he may return to full power in Cuba.
During an interview Saturday with the Associated Press, Chávez said the 80-year old leader showed remarkable strength and stamina after undergoing 3 separate operations in the course of one week.
"Fidel is quite recovered right now," said Chávez, "and I know he isn't totally out in front, but he is sharing the functions of government with his brother Raúl and with his team of vice presidents. I think the time has come for him to put on his uniform.''
The Venezuelan leader also said he hoped for a better relationship with the U.S. government after President Bush leaves office.
"I would hope for a government with which it's possible to talk," said Chávez, "a government with which differences can be discussed, to at least recover the level of relations we had during the era of former President Clinton. Relations will never be easy, neither with Democrats nor Republicans. We hope to have normal relations.''
Chávez also discussed his decision to shutdown an opposition-aligned television station. He said at the time there were near riots in the streets for two weeks. But now that the 'the dust has settled', he hopes the people will see it in a different light.
"A government, within its authority," said Chávez, "decided not to renew the concession of a television channel run by the elite.''
He added that the move was long overdue, saying the station backed a 2002 coup against him and consistently broke the law.
Chavez said there were no plans to nationalize more businesses — for now — after a series of state takeovers in the oil, telecommunications and electricity industries. But he would not rule out more expropriations in the future.