Cuba tones down Castro's positive words on Chavez health

Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:10pm EST
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By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - More than a week after former leader Fidel Castro was quoted in Cuban media as saying Venezuela's cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez was "much better," the Communist Party newspaper published a different, toned down version of his comments on Tuesday.

The transcript in Granma, said to have been "reviewed and updated" by Castro, left out the more positive assessments of Chavez' condition, but did say he was recovering.

Castro, who spoke with reporters when he went to vote in Cuba's National Assembly election, was quoted in February 4 news accounts as telling reporters he got daily reports on Chavez and that he was doing "much better, recovering" two months after undergoing a six-hour operation in Havana.

"It has been a tough fight but he is improving," Castro said. "We have to cure him. Chavez is very important for his country and for Latin America."

In the official version, published Tuesday, a reporter asks Castro if he had heard anything about the condition of Chavez.

"Yes, every day. He is recovering, according to the last medical report I received today, February 3, at midday," Castro replied.

"Improving?" the reporter asks.

"Yes, although they have been difficult and hard days. Our doctors devote themselves to this task, this is what I am able to tell you since the information is a right that belongs to the (Venezuelan) government and his family members," Castro said.   Continued...

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro speaks to reporters at a polling station in Havana February 3, 2013. REUTERS/AIN FOTO/Marcelino Vazquez