(original title: Venezuela’s Chavez finds Castro happy in retirement)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez visited his friend and mentor Fidel Castro on Saturday for the first since the 81-year-old retired as Cuba’s leader and said he found him happy and flowing with ideas.
Chavez spent all morning chatting with Castro during a stopover in Cuba on his way home from a regional summit in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where Latin American presidents defused a tense border dispute between Colombia and Ecuador.
“I found Fidel happy, splendid and full of ideas, full of deep and wise thoughts,” Chavez told Cuban television.
Castro, who has not appeared in public since falling ill in July 2006, was replaced on February 24 by his brother Raul Castro as Cuba’s first new leader in almost half a century.
Chavez, who has provided communist-run Cuba with vital support through generously financed oil supplies, met with Raul Castro on arrival in Havana on Friday.
“I talked for a long time with Chavez today. We are brothers,” Fidel Castro said in a statement distributed by the Cuban government to the press by e-mail.
Both men have accused the United States of being behind a Colombian raid on leftist guerrillas camped inside the Ecuadorean border that sparked a weeklong diplomatic crisis and the buildup of troops by Venezuela and Ecuador on their borders with Colombia.
Chavez and Castro said the peaceful resolution of the crisis was a “defeat for U.S. imperialism.”
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Peter Cooney)