June 17, 2008
HAVANA -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met with former Cuban President Fidel Castro to discuss the world's food, energy and financial crises during a private three-hour meeting, state media reported Tuesday.
No details about the health of the ailing 81-year-old Castro were released by the online edition of the Communist Party daily Granma in its report on Monday's meeting. The newspaper released no new images of Castro, who has not been seen in public since he fell ill nearly two years ago. Castro's last official photograph was released in January.
Granma said during the "animated and affectionate" encounter that the men also discussed the strengthening of Venezuela's state oil company and regional elections. They also talked about the need to deepen the two countries' social missions, the newspaper added.
Castro gave Chavez a copy of a new book called "Fidel, Bolivia and Something More," about Castro's relationship with the Andean nation.
The two also met with President Raul Castro, Fidel's younger brother, Granma said.
Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage and Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque greeted Chavez upon his arrival in Havana Monday afternoon.
Chavez said the two nations would help "ensure life and security to our people."
The elder Castro's exact medical ailment and condition have remained state secrets since he underwent emergency intestinal surgery in late July 2006 and ceded provisional power to Raul, who replaced him permanently as president in February.
Fidel Castro has not been seen in official images since January, when photographs were released showing him looking frail but alert as he playfully photographed visiting Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
No videos or photographs were released when Chavez last met with the elder Castro in March, or when Bolivian President Evo Morales met with him last month.