Chávez: Fidel is `in charge'
Cuban leader Fidel Castro continues to improve, Venezuelan leader Hugo
BY LESLIE MAZOCH
BARQUISIMETO, Venezuela --
President Hugo Chávez said Sunday his friend and political ally Fidel
Castro is ''in charge'' again, nearly nine months after undergoing
The Cuban leader has not been seen in public since before July 31, when
he announced he had undergone surgery and provisionally ceded power to
his younger brother Raúl. With Cuban officials giving positive reports
about Fidel Castro's health, there has been speculation that he could
soon be back in the public eye.
''Fidel is in charge. Fidel is in charge,'' Chávez said, revealing that
he received a ''philosophical letter'' from Castro the day before and
that it ran nearly 10 pages.
Speaking during a meeting of leftist leaders, Chávez laughed as he said
that Bolivian President Evo Morales ``is determined that Fidel will come
out on May 1.''
''I think that Evo and Fidel have such a secret plan that even I don't
know what it is. I don't dare to make comments,'' Chávez said.
Morales was quoted Saturday in the Bolivian press as saying he was
convinced Fidel Castro would return to his post on May 1.
Chávez has regularly offered updates on Castro's health, while the
80-year-old leader has appeared periodically in photographs and videos
released by the Cuban government. Castro's condition and exact ailment
remain state secrets, but he is believed to suffer from diverticular
disease, which can cause inflammation and bleeding in the colon. The
U.S. intelligence community believes that Castro may also have
Chávez said Castro's health troubles have clearly forced him to slow
down but that he has made ''real improvement'' and is in an
``extraordinary mental state.''
Chávez was speaking during a summit of the Bolívarian Alternative for
the Americas, or ALBA, a bloc that involves Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua
and Bolivia. Castro's government was represented by Vice President and
Cabinet Secretary Carlos Lage.
''For eight months he has been fighting for his own life,'' Lage said of
Castro. ``Today we can tell you that Fidel has won the fight for his
life . . . and now he is consolidating the victory, and for that reason
he hasn't been present here as all of us would have wanted.''