Fidel Castro visiting Hugo Chavez after surgery

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- President Hugo Chavez has been receiving daily visits from former Cuban leader Fidel Castro while recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba, a Venezuelan government official said Saturday night.

Throughout his presidency, Chavez has had a close friendship with Castro, describing him as being like a father and mentor.

Castro has seen Chavez every day since Tuesday's surgery, Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza said on Venezuelan television in a phone call from Havana.

"He always stops by to personally find out about El Comandante's health condition and also to share his knowledge with all of us, and to give the family courage and encouragement," Arreaza said.

Arreaza, who is Chavez's son-in-law, said the president has been with his children since the operation, which was his fourth cancer-related surgery since June 2011.

Chavez has been making "favorable" improvements, Arreaza said, calling it a "process of stabilization."

The Venezuelan government has said that Chavez suffered complications during a complicated six-hour surgery but that he has since been recovering progressively.

Arreaza said there had been "moments of tension, above all on (December) 11 and 12, but we've overcome them one by one."

"El Comandante has fought a great battle, and as he told us he will overcome each of these moments little by little. He's getting better," said Arreaza, who is the husband of Chavez's eldest daughter, Rosa.

Arreaza said that as Chavez began to talk after the surgery, the president told him of "his deep love for his people."

The president also called for his supporters to vote in Venezuela's gubernatorial elections Sunday, Arreaza said.

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