MANAUS, Brazil, Sep 21 (Reuters) Cuban leader Fidel Castro nearly died and underwent several blood transfusions in which almost all his blood was exchanged, but he is now doing well, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said today.
It was not clear if Chavez was talking about a recent relapse in the health of Castro, 81, or if he was recounting complications that he suffered after undergoing emergency surgery more than a year ago due to an intestinal problem.
''Fidel is well, clearly he has not finished his recovery. He has a little problem there but he can live like this another 100 years,'' Chavez told reporters during a visit to Brazil's Amazon city of Manaus.
''What problem does he have? Well, one operation, two operations, three operations, 81-years-old, he almost died. They transfused nearly all Fidel's blood, he is still alive because he's Fidel. They gave him I don't know how many transfusions,'' said Chavez, a close friend and ally of the veteran communist.
Castro relinquished power to his brother Raul over a year ago after he fell ill and has not been seen in public since then.
Video footage of meetings with Chavez and other foreign leaders appeared to show a steady improvement in his health early this year but no footage or pictures have been released since early June, fueling speculation that his condition may have worsened.
Chavez said he last spoke with Castro two or three weeks ago and that Venezuela's energy minister spoke with Castro last week.
Chavez was in Manaus for a meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.
REUTERS ARB KN1950