Despite widespread speculation that Cuban leader Fidel Castro had died recently, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has assured the global community that Castro is, in fact, alive and doing better. Cuban officials, meanwhile, also say Castro is recovering but haven’t said if and when he would return to office.

AP via

Castro also suggested he can’t be bothered to trim his beard and comb his hair so as to appear in official images — possibly explaining why none have been released of late.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Castro’s close friend and ally, said Friday in Brazil that the Cuban leader “has a little problem but he can live another 100 years with this little problem.”

Castro had “three operations, and he’s 81, imagine that. They changed almost all the blood with transfusions,” Chavez said. “Fidel is alive because he is Fidel.”

Back in Havana, at a separate gathering hours later, Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban parliament, said he had no new information on Castro’s health, but that “I trust Hugo Chavez a lot … he knows what he’s saying.”

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