Monday, August 17, 2009

Chavez visits Fidel for his 83rd birthday

Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez said Friday he found his close ally and mentor Fidel Castro in good health during a visit to Cuba to celebrate the Cuban leader's 83rd birthday.

Chavez says they shared a cake. He says he also gave Castro Venezuelan products including chocolate and sardines, and two charcoal drawings: one of Venezuelan independence hero Francisco de Miranda, and a second of Cuban hero Jose Marti.

He said Castro "is in absolute use of his mental faculties."

"You know what the imperialists say," Chavez said. "Some say that Fidel is crazy. ... They create rumors."

Castro ceded power to his brother, Raul, after he fell ill three years ago and has not been seen in public since. He stepped down as president in February 2008.

Castro marked his 83rd birthday on Thursday out of the public eye but with an essay on the global economic crisis, climate change and immigration that headlined Cuban newspapers.

On Wednesday, Cuba unveiled what it says is a recent photograph of Castro, showing him looking healthier than in other pictures since he underwent emergency surgery.

Chavez said the two leaders talked for some five hours on Friday before he returned to Venezuela.

"Fidel is fine, he's in his prime," he said.

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