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Fidel Castro walks in Havana streets, Chavez says
Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:51pm EST
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By Frank Jack Daniel
CARACAS (Reuters) - Cuba's ailing former leader Fidel Castro, not seen in public for almost three years, walked the streets of Havana in a "miracle" that made people cry, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Friday.
Chavez, a close friend of the legendary revolutionary, spent several hours with Castro in Cuba last weekend and said he was in his best health since falling ill in July 2006.
Other regional leaders have also described Castro as looking well in recent weeks.
Chavez's account of the walk and a trip to visit farmland may indicate an improvement in Castro's health. Castro's frail appearance in photos issued since his illness contrast with the robust leader who for decades admonished U.S. presidents in long, fiery speeches.
"Fidel went out and they saw him, Fidel walking in the streets in Havana, a miracle, the people cried," Chavez said during a service to commemorate a massacre in Venezuela.
"Of course he planned it so there would be no record of it. But there are some photos I have seen. I consider myself privileged," Chavez said. Chavez did not say when the walk took place.
Government officials on the Caribbean island told Reuters they could not confirm that Castro had gone on the walk.
Castro, 82, has not appeared at any public event since being operated on for an undisclosed intestinal problem in July 2006, even missing the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution last month. He was replaced by his younger brother, Raul Castro, as president of the communist-run island in 2008.
Chavez also said that in the most recent letter, Fidel Castro wrote that he went "far" to visit some trees he had planted 40 years ago as part of farm experiments during the early days of the revolution. Chavez gave no more specifics.
Chavez, who is widely considered Castro's heir as the leader of Latin American's left, sparked rumors his mentor's health was failing in January by saying he would not be seen again walking the streets or hugging supporters.
Socialist Chavez is Cuba's main benefactor and helped steady its economy with cheap oil after the collapse of the island's former aid and trade partner, the Soviet Union.
Chavez frequently exchanges letters with Fidel Castro, who has been visited by other Latin American presidents in recent weeks. The Cuban government has released images of the meetings that have sometimes shown a thin Castro walking around slowly.
Cuban officials and the state-run Cuban media have given almost no details on the health of the former leader.
Chavez has usually been accurate with his comments about Castro, who he calls his father. Continued...
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