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|Posted Tuesday, March 13, 2007|
|Castro reportedly joins Chavez in Haiti call|
Story Highlights Officials say Fidel Castro gradually is getting involved again in matters of state Cuban leader phoned Venezuela and Haiti leaders meeting in Haiti's capital Chavez announced $21 million in Venezuela funding for medical programs in Haiti
HAVANA, Cuba, Mar. 13, 2007 (Reuters) -- Convalescing Cuban leader Fidel Castro is gradually getting back to work on matters of state and took part by telephone in a presidential meeting in Haiti this week, officials said.
The 80-year-old revolutionary has not appeared in public since emergency surgery forced him to hand over power to his brother Raul in July, but his aides say he is growing stronger by the day and using the telephone a lot.
Castro called four times to speak to Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Rene Preval of Haiti during their meeting in Port au Prince on Monday to discuss Venezuelan and Cuba aid to the hemisphere's poorest country.
"Fidel also took part in that meeting by telephone. He was very keen to make sure the trilateral cooperation succeeds," Preval said at a news conference.
At the meeting, also attended by Cuban Vice President Esteban Lazo, Chavez announced $21 million in Venezuelan funding to extend medical programs carried out by Cuban doctors in remote rural areas in Haiti.
Castro stepped down formally on July 31 after complicated intestinal surgery. He is thought to have suffered from diverticulitis, or inflamed bulges in the large intestine, though his condition is a state secret.
Officials in the U.S. administration, which has tightened sanctions against Cuba to undermine its communist government, said last year they thought Castro had stomach cancer and had months left to live.
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, speaking Monday in Paris, France, said Castro was visibly on the mend and getting increasingly involved in matters of state.
"It's not good news for [President] Bush or for the government of the United States," Perez Roque told reporters after speaking at UNESCO, the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina reported.
"But the truth is that Fidel is recovering; he is doing physical exercise and is much stronger," Perez Roque said.
Bush, the 10th American president since Castro seized power in a 1959 revolution, will have to leave the White House before achieving political change in Cuba, the minister said.
In a surprise call to Chavez's radio show in Venezuela two weeks ago, Castro said he was feeling stronger and Cuba was running smoothly without him.
While Cuban officials say Castro will return to a leadership role, it is not clear whether he will don his military fatigues and give rousing hours-long speeches again.
"He has just stopped doing the things he was doing ... those long speeches, his presence at every event, being on top of each and every matter," National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon said in an interview published Sunday.
"Whether he will return to do those things, that is another matter," Alarcon told Argentina's Clarin newspaper.
Copyright 2007 Reuters
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