The first video images of ailing cuban leader Fidel Castro have been shown on the country’s state television channel. The footage featured a bed-ridden but alert Castro talking and smiling with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on his 80th birthday last Sunday. Also present was Castro’s brother Raul, making his first public appearance as acting President. Still frail from surgery for intestinal bleeding two weeks ago, Castro was shown talking, laughing, sharing gifts and eating yoghurt with Chavez.
No fresh details were given about Castro’s medical condition, which the veteran revolutionary has termed a state secret. Officials in the US said there was no reason to doubt the authenticity of the footage, but it was being analysed. However news that Castro has appeared in photos came as a relief to many Cubans, worried that his departure from office could lead to upheaval in the communist state.