Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro is locked in a "battle for his life," his friend and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said.
"He's back in (Cuba's) Sierra Maestra and locked in a battle for his life," he said referring to Castro's legendary guerrilla war that toppled Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and ushered in his Cuban Revolution.
"There are those who want Fidel to die," Chavez said alluding to a recent Spanish press report that Castro, 80, was gravely ill following three failed operations.
"But I spoke to him a few days ago ... We trust he will recover completely," Chavez told the Rio de Janeiro state legislature on Friday. Chavez has visited Castro and often speaks to him by telephone.
There has been mounting speculation over the condition of Castro, who has not been seen in public since being taken ill in late July. Last week, a US intelligence chief said Castro was terminally ill and might have only days to live.
"I dont know when he's going to die," said Chavez. "I hope he lives another 80 years, I hope he lives another 100 years, but Fidel Castro is one of those men who will never die."
"He's like Che Guevara, the immortal Che," the leftist president said to the applause of some 500 people. He was referring to legendary guerrilla leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara, an Argentine doctor and Castro's right-hand who was killed in Bolivia in 1967.
After intestinal surgery, Castro transferred power temporarily to his brother and Defense Minister Raul Castro, 75, and the Cuban government since then has made his health a state secret.