Cuban minister: Castro could return soon

Updated: 2007-03-02 07:16

TEGUCIGALPA- Fidel Castro is recovering from his illness and "could return to work soon," Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said Thursday.

Perez Roque and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a close friend of Castro who visited the communist leader recently in Cuba, have said repeatedly that Castro is improving after gastrointestinal surgery in July.

The foreign minister's comments follow a growing number of positive assessments about Castro's health from officials and family members.

National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon also indicated recently that Castro could eventually return to some kind of public leadership role but without spending "so many hours making appearances and visits."

"We are optimistic because Fidel has won" the fight against his illness "and could return to work soon," Perez Roque told a news conference on Thursday, the second day of a two-day visit to Honduras aimed at strengthening bilateral relations and signing cooperation agreements for health and education.

"I can't give an exact date for when he could go back to work," he added. "That will happen when he has satisfactorily concluded his recovery period."

The foreign minister did not elaborate, leaving open the question of whether the 80-year-old Castro might take a less prominent role while leaving his 75-year-old brother Raul Castro, the defense minister, in charge.

His comments followed a surprise call by Castro to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's radio talk show in the leader's first live comments since his surgery. The call Tuesday night fueled expectations that Castro could soon reappear in public.

Previously, only prerecorded video images of Castro, including several in which he spoke, have been released by the Cuban government in an apparent attempt to quell speculation that he was deathly ill.

Cuba has remained calm and functioned normally in the seven months since the man who ruled the island for 47 years temporarily ceded power to Raul Castro.

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