Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says Cuba's ailing leader Fidel Castro is in a "battle for his life."

Mr. Chavez talked about Mr. Castro on Friday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He compared Mr. Castro's battle against health problems to the guerrilla war the Cuban leader fought to topple Cuba's government in 1959.

Mr. Chavez said he does not know when Mr. Castro will die, but he said he hopes Mr. Castro lives another 80 years. President Chavez is attending a summit of South American leaders in Rio.

Earlier Friday, a Spanish doctor who examined Mr. Castro in December said the Cuban leader is making a slow but progressive recovery from intestinal surgery.

Doctor Jose Luis Garcia Sebrido told the Reuters news agency that the Cuban leader's condition is serious because of his advanced age.

Cuba's government treats Mr. Castro's health as a state secret.

He has not been seen in public since late July when he underwent surgery. At the time, he temporarily handed power to his younger brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro.

Some information provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.