Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday that 82-year-old Fidel Castro seemed in "very, very good" shape when they met in Cuba last week.

Remarking on the former Cuban president's health for the first time since their latest meeting, Chavez said Castro was "much better than all the times I've visited him in the past three years, two and a half years."

Castro has not been seen in public since mid-2006 when he underwent intestinal surgery and ceded power to his younger brother Raul.

Venezuela's socialist leader said in a telephone call carried on state television early Friday that he met with the elder Castro twice, once for three hours on Feb. 20 and a day later for more than four hours.

"Fidel is — well — very, very, very good. Very good," Chavez said.

In a televised speech later Friday, Chavez said he had received four letters from Castro a day earlier.

"Fidel surprised us all," Chavez said. "He went for a walk. Fidel went out and they saw him. ... Fidel walking through Havana, through the streets. A miracle. The people were crying.

"Of course he planned it all so there wouldn't be any record of it or anything," Chavez added. "There's a photo that I've seen, and in that sense I feel humbly privileged."

It wasn't clear exactly when Castro took the walk.

When they met, Chavez and Castro discussed subjects including the world financial crisis and the new government of President Barack Obama, the Venezuelan government said in a statement.

There were no images released of the meetings with Castro, whom Chavez views as an exemplary "father" for leftists across Latin America.