Fidel Castro's health 'improving'

Fidel Castro is “exceptionally well” and appears recovered from a health crisis that has kept him out of the public eye for more than three and a half years, Brazil’s president said, according to reports by his country’s news media.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva spent more than an hour discussing “various topics” with his longtime friend, the 83-year-old Castro, who ceded power to his younger brother Raul – first temporarily, then permanently – after undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006.

The meeting was closed to international news media based in Havana, but information about it was carried in Cuban state media and by Brazil’s private Agencia Estado news agency.

Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since falling seriously ill, and his exact ailment has remained a state secret, though he has appeared healthier in photos released periodically by Cuba’s government.

The grey-bearded revolutionary was thought to be in far graver health – in fact, rumours of his imminent death were frequent – the last time Mr Silva came to see him in January 2008.

This time, Mr Silva felt Mr Castro looked “much different” and improved, Agencia Estado said, citing unidentified presidential aide

Raul Castro and Franklin Martins, Mr Silva’s communications minister, participated in the meeting.

Also visiting Cuba was socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, another close friend and confidant of Fidel Castro.

Mr Silva, Mr Chavez and Raul Castro had all been in the Mexican Caribbean city of Playa del Carmen on Tuesday for a Latin American and Caribbean “unity” summit.

Before their meeting with Fidel Castro, Mr Silva and Raul Castro donned guayabera dress shirts and travelled to the port city of Mariel, about 30 miles west of Havana, where Brazil’s government is helping build a new port designed to handle full-size container ships.

Raul Castro became provisional president on July 31, 2006, and took over permanently two years ago.

However, he played down the anniversary in comments to the news media.

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