Chavez lands in Cuba, meets with Castro brothers

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By WILL WEISSERT – 8 hours ago

HAVANA (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made a surprise visit to Cuba late Saturday and wasted little time heading into a closed-door meeting with President Raul Castro and his ailing brother Fidel.

A report on the Web site of the Communist Youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde said Chavez arrived around 8:30 p.m. and was greeted at the airport by the 77-year-old Raul Castro, who succeeded Fidel as president in February, becoming the communist-run island's first new head-of- state in 49 years.

Chavez then met with both Castro brothers, according to the Internet item, which was posted about a half-hour after his arrival. The meeting was still under way at the time of the posting.

The story provided no further details and there was no additional comment from Cuba's government.

It was the second Cuba visit in less than a week for Chavez, who came to Havana for a few hours on Monday as part of a previously announced stopover at the start of his tour to China, Russia and Europe.

Saturday's visit had not been previously scheduled. Earlier in the day, however, Cuban state television showed images of Chavez being interviewed in Portugal, where he could be heard saying he didn't have much time to talk because "Fidel was waiting" for him in Havana. The pair are close friends and socialist allies, and generous Venezuelan oil shipments at favorable prices have helped keep the island's economy afloat.

The 82-year-old Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006. Holed up in an undisclosed location, he is suffering from an unknown illness, but has continued to sign essays that appear several times a week in state-controlled newspapers.

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