Chavez says Castro to begin 'second mandate' in Cuba
José F. Sánchez
La Nueva Cuba
November 26, 2006
CARACAS: Cuban President Fidel Castro is not on his death bed, but is
ready to launch a "second mandate," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
said on Saturday, brandishing a letter from his ailing friend .
"I got this letter and I want to show it to the world because some
people say Fidel is dying and that he is in a vegetative state ," the
fiercely anti-US Chavez told followers in Zulia, 500 kilometers (310
miles) west of the capital.
"Definitely not so," he added. "Here is his signature, in case of
doubts, and the date ... he signs as he always does: 'Thanks, Fidel.'"
Chavez, who goes up for re-election on December 3, said that far from
dying, Castro was ready to take the helm once again.
"I think that soon we'll see Fidel Castro's second mandate. The first
one lasted 40 years, and very soon the second one will begin," said
Chavez, who has been in power since 1998.
Cuba is preparing for a celebration of Castro's 80th birthday, which was
postponed because of his health, but has neither confirmed nor denied
that the ailing leader will take part in the celebrations.
Castro's 80th birthday celebration was postponed from August 13, his
actual birthday, to December 2, the 50th anniversary of the start of the
revolution he led to topple US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
Castro's underwent intestinal surgery in July and temporarily ceded
power to his brother Raul Castro, the defense chief.
Speculation has grown about Castro's health, amid persistent rumors in
US media that he is suffering from cancer. Cuban authorities have been
short on details as his health is considered a state secret with