Fresh pictures of Castro and Chavez shown in Cuban media

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Hugo Chavez (left) greets a recuperating Fidel Castro on the Cuban leader's birthday, yesterday.

An additional round of new photos of a recuperating Fidel Castro have been published in the Cuban media. There has been international speculation on the state of the Cuban leader's health since he temporarily relinquished power two weeks ago prior to undergoing intestinal surgery. Castro had not been seen in those two weeks, and there were rumours that he was dead or nearing death.

Chavez (centre) is presented with a portrait of Fidel Castro by Raul Castro (right).

The official Communist Party daily Granma today published pictures of Castro meeting Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez on the Cuban leader's 80th birthday, yesterday. The paper referred to the meeting as "three hours of emotional exchange" quoting Chavez as saying "This is the best visit I've ever had in my life." Earlier, acting Cuban leader Raul Castro made his first public appearance since taking power when he welcomed Chavez to Cuba at the airport. The brothers also appear together in one of the new photos.

The earlier round of pictures released Sunday by the Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) newspaper show Castro speaking on the phone and holding Saturday's edition of the Communist Party newspaper Granma.

Castro also released a statement yesterday saying that his health had improved but that his recovery would take more time.

"To say that objective stability has improved considerably is not to invent a lie. To affirm that the period of recovery will last a short time and that there is no longer any risk would be absolutely incorrect."

Picture of Fidel Castro holding a copy of August 12th Granma newspaper was published yesterday in Jueventud Rebelde.

"I ask you all to be optimistic and at the same time to be ready to face any adverse news," said Castro, who also thanked the Cuban people for their love and support during his health crisis. The statement was the first from the Cuban leader since undergoing surgery.

Granma reported Saturday that Castro is now "up" and "working". The official newspaper reported that according to an unnamed friend of Castro "the leader of the revolution, after receiving some physiotherapy, took his first steps in the room, then, sitting on a coach, talked vividly".

Though most official celebrations of Castro's birthday have been postponed (possibly until December), three thousand well-wishers have gathered for a five-hour birthday concert on Havana's Malecon seafront boulevard.

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