Fidel Castro has sought to allay fears about his health by phoning government officials and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Cuba's Communist party newspaper has said. It is the first news in 11 days of the 80-year-old Cuban leader making any kind of public statement. He has not been seen in public for four months and rumours have been rife.
Even if Castro is not as sick as his enemies speculate, his prolonged absence from public life has raised questions about whether he will ever return to power.
Vice President Carlos Lage and National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon were presiding over the Friday meeting of provincial assembly presidents when Castro called. Chavez said that Castro, a close friend and ally, called to congratulate him on his re-election earlier this month.