Hugo Chavez calls state TV after rumours he had died
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has telephoned state TV, ending a virtual silence of nine days that triggered rumours that he had died while undergoing cancer treatment in Cuba.
In the phone call from Havana where he is undergoing radiation therapy, the 57-year-old socialist leader said: "It seems we will have to become accustomed to live with these rumors, because it is part of the laboratories of psychological war, of dirty war."
Pope Benedict XVI criticised the 50-year-old US trade embargo on Cuba as he wrapped up a three-day visit to the island, urging reconciliation and greater freedoms.
He said: "May no one feel excluded ... from taking up this exciting search for his or her basic freedoms, or excused from this by indolence or lack of material resources, a situation which is worsened when restrictive economic measures, imposed from outside the country, unfairly burden its people."
The Pope did not cite the government by name, but in his address in Havana, he urged Cuban authorities to let the church more freely preach its message and educate its young in the faith in schools and universities.
The remarks came before Benedict's eagerly anticipated meeting with Fidel Castro.
Pope Benedict has met with Cuban revolutionary icon Fidel Castro after saying mass in Havana, the Vatican has said.
The meeting comes towards the close of the pope's three-day visit to the Communist-run island, during which the pontiff has called for greater freedoms, and a bigger role for the Roman Catholic Church in Cuban society.