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Castro, Chavez chat in live Cuban TV appearance

Monday, October 15, 2007

HAVANA -- Fidel Castro made his first live appearance on Cuban airwaves since falling ill 14 months ago, sounding lucid and in good humor as he exchanged praise and jokes Sunday with the Venezuelan president.

Castro's telephone call to a television and radio program came minutes after visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez aired a new videotape of their weekend meeting in which he sang revolutionary hymns to Castro and called him "father of all revolutionaries."

"I am very touched when you sing about Che," Castro told Chavez during his hour-long call to Chavez's "Alo, Presidente!" program -- referring to revolutionary icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara, to whom the program was dedicated.

"There is electricity in the air," Chavez said, obviously pleased with Castro's call.

Castro, who has not appeared in public since falling ill in July 2006, made his last live media appearance in February with a phone call to Chavez's radio program broadcast from Venezuela. But there was a half-hour delay before that program was broadcast in Cuba.

The last official image of Castro was a photograph released late last month, showing him looking more robust than in some past pictures as he stood and greeted Angolan President Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos.

Chavez has visited the 81-year-old Castro several times since the Cuban leader underwent emergency intestinal surgery in late July 2006 and ceded authority to his younger brother Raul.


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