Niece: Fidel Castro 'Stupendous'

Fidel Castro's niece said Sunday he was recovering well from surgery and would likely be "very active" again in Cuba's government.

"Fidel is stupendous," said Mariela Castro Espin, daughter of acting President Raul Castro, who took over in July after his older brother underwent surgery.

Fidel Castro, 80, has disappeared from view since temporarily ceding power to his younger brother, aside from occasional videotaped meetings with foreign visitors.

The most recent showed a Jan. 29 meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in which the Cuban leader seemed noticeably stronger and less haggard than in earlier images.

The videotape eased speculation fed by a Jan. 16 report in the Spanish newspaper El Pais that described Castro as being in "very grave" condition after three failed operations. Cuban officials have not given details of his illness.

It has not been clear if Castro would eventually return to power fully or would leave the government in the hands of colleagues. There have been no visible signs of unrest or major policy changes since he stepped aside.

"One way or the other he is going to be present and very active," said Castro Espin, who attended the dedication of a book of collected speeches and interviews by her mother Vilma Espin, a veteran of the revolution led by Castro.

Castro Espin, who heads the National Center for Sex Education, said she had not seen her uncle in recent days, but had spoken with "many people to be able to have information from different points of view" about his condition.

"I know that he is very well, that he is recovering very well," she said. Castro "is recuperating as a man of 80 years should recuperate."

Cuban Parliament Speaker Ricardo Alarcon made similar comments for Sunday's edition of the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia.

Alarcon was quoted as saying he had spoken with Fidel Castro several times by phone and that the Cuban leader was closely following events.

"I'm confident that he will not only continue leading, as he is now, on fundamental topics, but that we will see him more closely," Alarcon said.

He added that "it would be natural to expect that things would be like before" but without Castro spending "so many hours making appearances and visits."