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Chavez says Castro better, went for a walk in Havana

February 28, 2009|Reuters

CARACAS, VENEZUELA — Cuba's ailing former leader Fidel Castro, not seen in public for almost three years, appeared on the streets of Havana and people cried when they recognized him, according to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Chavez spent several hours with Castro in Cuba last weekend and said Friday that Castro, 82, was in his best health since surgery for an unspecified intestinal problem in July 2006.

Chavez did not see Castro's walkabout himself -- "of course he planned it so there would be no record of it," Chavez said. "But there are some photos I have seen. I consider myself privileged."

Chavez's account and reports from other visitors in recent weeks indicate an improvement in Castro's health.

"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 the deaths of at least 300 people in unrest in Venezuela 20 years ago.

Chavez did not say when Castro reportedly went out.

Castro was formally replaced as president by brother Raul Castro, now 77, last year. Raul Castro had been provisionally in charge since Fidel Castro fell ill.

Chavez is Cuba's main benefactor and helped the communist-run island with cheap oil to steady its economy after the collapse of its former supporter, the Soviet Union.

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