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HAVANA (CBS4) – Former Cuban president Fidel Castro ended a more than month long silence to laud President Hugo Chavez’s recovery from surgery.

In an essay published late Sunday, Castro said he was confident the 56-year old Venezuelan leader would win his battle with cancer.

“Let’s give him the strongest support and confidence,” the former Cuban leader wrote.

Castro said Chavez has worked almost without stopping since taking office in 1999, so it was only natural that his health would suffer.

Chavez made a surprise return to Venezuela before dawn Monday. State television showed a video of Chavez arriving about 2:30 a.m. EDT. The footage was aired a little more than five hours later.

“I’m fine. I’m happy,” he said after stepping down from the plane and hugging his vice president, Elias Jaua, and his elder brother, Adan. “A perfect landing.”

Later, in a telephone interview, Chavez told state television he was having breakfast.

“I’m devouring everything,” he said.

Chavez said he spent “very difficult days” in Cuba but that his recovery is going well.

President Raul Castro saw him off on the tarmac as he departed during the night from Havana. From the door of the airplane, Chavez saluted, raised a fist, and then waved and blew a kiss.

He arrived a day before the 200th anniversary of Venezuela’s declaration of independence from Spain. A military parade and other events are planned to mark the bicentennial.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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