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Chavez congratulates Castro for re-election


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is convalescing in a Caracas hospital, issued a statement Monday congratulating President Raul Castro for his re-election to a final five-year term.

Chavez sent his "warmest congratulations to the revolutionary leader Raul Castro" and wished him "great success" after the National Assembly re-elected him on Sunday.

Castro, 81, told lawmakers it would be his last term and named a new number two, Council of State Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 52.

The Venezuelan leftist leader has forged close ties with Cuba's retired leader Fidel Castro and his brother Raul. Chavez has undergone four rounds of cancer surgery in Cuba since June 2011.

Chavez returned to Caracas on February 18 after spending two months in a Cuban hospital following his latest surgery in Havana.

The Venezuelan government has issued sporadic statements since Chavez's December 11 operation and his face has only been seen in four pictures released on February 15, showing him in bed, smiling with his two daughters.