(AP) - Hundreds of flag-waving people rallied in Cuba's capital on Tuesday to publicly declare their support for ailing leader Fidel Castro, as assurances he was recovering began to ease Cubans' worries about their long-ruling leader.
Cubans gathered in a working-class neighborhood sang the national anthem and chanted "Long live Fidel! Long live Raul!" in support of Castro and his brother Raul, to whom he has temporarily ceded power. Local Communist officials, meanwhile, made patriotic statements from a sound stage on a tractor-trailer, reports Trend.
"We are praying for the life of our commander in chief because we love him," said neighborhood resident Alejandrina Legran. "He's the prince of our people. We owe him our respect and obedience."
Meanwhile, Castro's ally and friend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, expressed confidence in the Cuban leader's recovery, calling him "the father of this continent's revolutionaries."
"I have very, very much faith that Fidel will fully recover from his ailment, from the operation they had to perform on him," Chavez said Tuesday night in Venezuela, referring to Castro's recent intestinal surgery.
Castro has not been seen publicly since July 26. Five days later, his secretary went on state television to announce that the leader had undergone surgery for intestinal bleeding and was temporarily ceding power to his younger brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro.
Statements in recent days such as Vice President Carlos Lage's remark that Castro himself has said he'll be back at work "in a few weeks" seem to have calmed uncertainty and speculation among Cubans that their leader was on his deathbed, or maybe even in his grave. Still, details on his specific condition or what surgical procedure Castro underwent have yet to be released.
Many Cubans say they have no reason to doubt the statements from officials that Castro will return.
"We trust in our leaders," Aleida Guevara, the daughter of Latin American revolutionary fighter Ernesto "Che" Guevara, said in a live Internet forum discussion about her father organized by the Cuban government.
"The Cuban people are calm, though they continue to be concerned about the health of El Comandante," said Guevara, who lives in Havana.
Cuba's Communist Youth newspaper on Tuesday published letters to Castro from children and teenagers across the country.
"We care about you so much, and since the moment of this sad news haven't stopped thinking about you," wrote Rina Forment, a 10-year-old in the eastern city of Santiago.
Big celebrations for Castro's 80th birthday Aug. 13 were postponed until Dec. 2, the 50th anniversary of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces.
But some Cubans tempered their optimism.
Pilar Lopez, 68, said she didn't think officials were lying but that Castro could be struggling more than is being acknowledged.
"I'm worried that it could be worse than we think," she said. "But none of us want him to go yet."