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Ailing Castro makes first appearance in months

Cuban television on Tuesday showed the first images of Fidel Castro in more than five months, broadcasting a video of him chatting with visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Image: Fidel Castro
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, center, meets with his brother Cuban President Raul Castro, right, and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, in Havana on Tuesday.Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Cuban television on Tuesday showed the first images of Fidel Castro in more than five months, broadcasting a silent video of the ailing revolutionary chatting in a garden with visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The 81-year-old Castro looked thinner, and his hair and beard appeared much whiter, in the new video. But he nevertheless looked vigorous and animated as he talked with Chavez and younger brother Raul Castro. He wore in a white track-suit jacket with red and blue trim.

The green of trees could be seen all around the trio in the video, but it was impossible to determine exactly where the meeting took place.

It was the second meeting in as many days between the elder Castro and Chavez, who are close friends.

Chavez told reporters about the Tuesday meeting before boarding a flight back to Venezuela in the afternoon.

"With Fidel, we conversed nearly three hours yesterday, and almost two hours more today, walking in a garden," Chavez told reporters in images broadcast on Venezuelan state television. "We were revising the entire plan for energy exchanges and the strengthening of refinery capacity and production of petroleum and petrochemicals."

The two countries are collaborating on a major petroleum refinery and petrochemical plant in the eastern Cuban port city of Cienfuegos.

Chavez said he and the 81-year-old former Cuban president on Tuesday also discussed the need for both countries to produce their own food, using as little land as possible.

'Greatest sum of happiness'
"Cuba has very good land, great experience, well-formed human capital, as do we," Chavez said. "They are two revolutions in one to guarantee our nations, Cuba and Venezuela, the greatest sum of happiness possible."

State media for both countries earlier reported on the men's three-hour private meeting on Monday.

No details about Castro's state of health were mentioned in reports on either meeting.

Castro has not been seen in public since he fell ill nearly two years ago.

The Communist Party daily Granma described the first meeting with Chavez as "animated and affectionate," and said the men discussed financial and energy world crises and the situation in Venezuela.

State secrets
Chavez also met Monday with President Raul Castro.

Fidel Castro's exact medical ailment and condition have remained state secrets since he underwent emergency intestinal surgery in late July 2006 and ceded provisional power to Raul, who replaced him permanently as president in February.

Fidel Castro has not been seen in official images since Jan. 15, when photographs were released showing him looking frail, but alert as he playfully photographed visiting Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

No videos or photographs were released when Chavez last met with the elder Castro in March, or when Bolivian President Evo Morales met with him last month.