updated 6/12/2007 4:39:20 PM ET 2007-06-12T20:39:20

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made a surprise visit to Cuba Tuesday at the invitation of his convalescing friend and ally Fidel Castro, state television reported.

State television showed Chavez being greeted at the airport by Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage and Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque.

The announcer on Cuba's midday news said Chavez was scheduled to meet with the 80-year-old Castro as well as Raul Castro, who has been acting president since his older brother temporarily stepped aside in late July following emergency intestinal surgery.

"Long live Cuba! Long live Fidel!" Chavez shouted to official media at the airport before he was whisked away in a black sedan.

No other details of the visit were immediately available.

Chavez's visit came just five days after Bolivian President Evo Morales made a daylong trip to Havana and spent three hours with Castro, later saying the Cuban leader looked "very recovered."

Afterward, Morales predicted he would be seeing more of Castro, saying he had been invited to come back and chat whenever he liked.

Although Castro has not appeared in public in the 10 months since announcing his illness, he has become more active recently, writing more than a dozen essays on international affairs.

He has been seen only in still photographs and videotapes released by the government, including a 50-minute taped interview that appeared on state TV last week. No images of his visit with Morales or Chavez were immediately released.

Senior officials have repeatedly said Castro is on the mend, although the bearded revolutionary recently acknowledged in one of his essays that his recovery has been delayed because one of his first operations did not go well.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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