January 17, 2009 / 1:38 AM / in 10 years

Cuba's Fidel Castro "working and writing": Chavez

A man peeks out of a door next to an image of retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Havana January 14, 2009. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa

CARACAS (Reuters) - Fidel Castro is “working, writing and following the world situation,” his friend Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said on Friday after a prolonged silence from the 82-year-old former Cuban leader fueled speculation that his health was declining.

Castro has not been seen in public since he underwent intestinal surgery in July 2006 that forced him to cede power to his brother, Raul.

Chavez, whose comments were read on Venezuelan state television, also said he had received a letter from Castro about a week ago.

After meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Chavez called Castro a father figure for all Latin American leftists.

“Lula today recalled a meeting with Fidel when he was ready to quit because he had lost so many elections, and Fidel motivated him, me too so many times and Daniel Ortega so many times. He is like the father of all of us,” Chavez said.

Although he has been seen in occasional videos and photos since his surgery, Fidel Castro was notably absent this month from the 50th anniversary celebrations of his 1959 victory over dictator Fulgencio Batista.

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