CARACAS, Venezuela - Cuban leader
Fidel Castro called in to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's radio talk show on
Tuesday, declaring he's "more energetic, stronger" and his country is running
smoothly without him at the helm.
Cuba's President Fidel Castro (L) greets his Venezuelan
counterpart Hugo Chavez in Havana January 29, 2007. State television
showed Fidel Castro for the first time in three months on Tuesday and the
ailing Cuban leader said he was still in the fight to recover from surgery
that forced him to relinquish power last July. Picture taken January 29,
"I feel good and I'm
happy," Castro said in a phone call to Chavez's weekday radio program. "I can't
promise that I'll go over there soon, but, yes, I'm gaining ground."
The 80-year-old Castro transferred control of Cuba's government to his
brother Raul after undergoing intestinal surgery in July and dropped out of
public view, fueling speculation about his condition.
He thanked Chavez for spreading news about his recuperation and complained
that his supporters have "the habit, the vice of getting news daily."
"But I ask for patience, calm ... the country is marching along, which is
what is important," Castro said in a soft but steady voice.
"And I ask for tranquility also for me so that I can fulfill my new tasks,"
In Havana, Cuban state television's nightly Roundtable program reported
briefly on the telephone exchange and bits of the conversation were broadcast
across the island.
During the half-year since Castro announced he had undergone intestinal
surgery, the communist-led country has been governed by his brother Raul and a
team of top leaders that includes Cuban Vice President and Cabinet Secretary
"You don't know how happy we are to hear your voice and know that you're
well," Chavez said with obvious surprise in his voice at the unexpected call.
The two leaders, who are close friends and allies, spoke for almost 30
Cuba's communist government has kept Castro's condition and exact ailment
secret, and Chavez acknowledged that he has become an "emissary" for news of his
On Jan. 30, Havana's government released a new video of Castro looking
stronger than in previous images as he met with Chavez, which quelled growing
speculation that he was gravely ill.
The Cuban government has sought to reassure Cubans after intestinal surgery
forced Castro to temporarily cede power for the first time in 47 years, saying
his health is stable and the defense of the island guaranteed.
Chavez ended his conversation with his mentor telling him: "We will win time
and win the battle for life."
"Fatherland or death. We will prevail!," the two leaders repeated after each