A stronger-looking Fidel Castro said his recovery from an intestinal ailment was "far from a lost battle" as state television showed a video of him meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez almost six months to the day after he temporarily gave up power.
Castro stood, appeared alert and was shown drinking juice in the 10-minute video clip that aired Tuesday, but which state TV said was shot during Chavez's previously unannounced visit to Havana on Monday.
The newest images -- the first in three months -- appeared aimed at deflating the latest round of rumors about Castro's health as his absence from power reached the half-year mark. The government has kept Castro's condition and exact ailment secret, sparking speculation among average Cubans on the island and his foes in exile.
The 80-year-old Cuban leader, who dropped from public view in late July after emergency intestinal surgery, looked heavier than in previous images that had showed him thin and frail.
"This also is far from being a lost battle," Castro, dressed in a red, white and blue track suit, said of his current health problems.
He noted that when his severe intestinal problems struck last summer he was still not fully recovered from a devastating October 2004 fall that severely injured a knee and a shoulder. "One after the other," Castro said of his health troubles.
Later in the video, Chavez was even more optimistic, saying Castro had already won the battle to recover his health. The leftist Venezuelan president's brother, Education Minister Adan Chavez, was also seen in the video visiting Castro.
Castro, who led the 1959 armed revolution that drove out dictator Fulgencio Batista, had ruled Cuba for almost 48 years when he stunned the nation on July 31 by temporarily ceding power to his younger brother, the 75-year-old defense minister, the AP reports.
Havana has labeled Castro's medical status a ''state secret,'' but published reports have said he suffered complications and infections following the surgery that left the man who ruled Cuba for 47 years with a "very grave prognosis.''
Monday's video was apparently designed to show that he was improving, though the images left many questions unanswered. Only about three minutes of the six-minute video included Castro, while the rest focused on Chávez's arrival, his comments and some still photos of his meeting with Fidel, miami.com reports.
Castro was last seen in an October 28 video clip looking very frail and walking with difficulty. He appeared to have put on weight in the latest images.
Cuba has denied Castro has stomach cancer but his precise illness is a state secret. He is thought to be suffering from diverticulitis, a disorder of the large intestine.
Chavez, who has built a close economic relationship with Cuba and whom critics accuse of leading the world's fifth largest oil exporter toward Cuban-style communism, told his mentor he brought him "the embrace of millions who admire you, love you, need you and follow you step by step."
"There is Fidel standing, in one piece," he said in the five-minute video clip.
Chavez said he found Castro in "good humor" and speaking clearly about global issues such as climate change, news.com.au reports.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik
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