Chavez to visit Castro on his birthday

August 13, 2006|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

HAVANA -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that he would fly to Cuba last night to celebrate Fidel Castro's 80th birthday today with the ailing leader.

The announcement came the same day that the Cuban Communist Party newspaper gave the most upbeat assessment of Castro's health since the leader announced July 31 that he had undergone surgery and temporarily ceded power to his younger brother, Raul, the defense minister.

The front-page article in the Granma newspaper said that Castro is walking, talking and sitting up, as well as undergoing physical therapy.

"A friend tells us that just a few hours ago, upon visiting the comandante, who was briefly taking care of some business, he witnessed some good news that he enthusiastically summed up in one sentence: `The caguairan has risen,'" the Granma report began.

The friend was not identified in the article.

A caguairan is a tropical hardwood tree from eastern Cuba that is known for its strength.

The three-paragraph report also stated that Castro, "after receiving a little physical therapy, conversed animatedly."

In a statement attributed to Castro on August 1, the Cuban leader said he was in stable condition but explained that he would refrain from providing further updates because his health condition was a "state secret" coveted by his enemy, the United States.

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