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Ailing Castro praises Chavez re-election in note

Written by: Staff
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HAVANA, Dec 5 (Reuters) Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro, last seen in an October 28 video clip, congratulated ally Hugo Chavez on his re-election as Venezuelan president, according to a message published today.

''Your victory was conclusive, crushing and without parallel in the history of our Americas,'' said the brief note signed by Castro and published by ruling Communist newspaper Granma.

''We Cubans are happy,'' he said.

Castro failed to show up last week for delayed celebrations of his 80th birthday and a military parade marking the start of his revolution 50 years ago. His absence has fueled speculation that he is very ill or close to death.

Castro has not appeared in public since he underwent emergency surgery to stop intestinal bleeding in late July. He was forced to hand over power to his brother Raul Castro.

Cubans were shocked by video images released on October 28 that showed a frail and shuffling Castro suffering from an undisclosed illness.

Venezuela has helped keep the Cuban economy afloat by providing oil shipments with preferential financing which Cuba pays for with billions of dollars in medical services.

REUTERS PDM BS1941

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