Chavez conscious and recovering - Venezuela VP
A supporter of Venezuelan President Chavez holds a picture of him, as he attends a mass to pray for Chavez's health in Caracas (Reuters)
By Fabiola Sanchez
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is conscious and progressively recovering more than a week after cancer surgery in Cuba, his vice president said Thursday.
In a televised address, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Chavez was receiving treatment for a respiratory infection and has been with his family resting.
"He's well. He's conscious," Maduro said during the speech in central Guarico state. "He's fighting a great battle ... for his life, for his health."
Maduro reiterated that the president had undergone a complicated surgery.
The vice president's remarks, which varied little from other recent updates on Chavez's health, came as National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello defended his suggestion that Chavez's Jan. 10 inauguration could be postponed - a statement that has fed uncertainty about the his recovery.
Maduro, however, had said Wednesday that he didn't want to speculate about such a scenario and that the Supreme Court could settle any such question if needed.
"I only expressed my opinion, of which I'm absolutely convinced since it's in line with our constitution," Cabello said in a message on his Twitter account.
Speculation has grown about Chavez's condition more than a week after an operation in Cuba, his fourth in 18 months.
The 58-year-old Chavez has not spoken publicly since his Dec. 11 surgery for pelvic cancer, and on Tuesday the government said he had a respiratory infection, though it was controlled. Chavez also suffered bleeding during the six-hour operation, which the government said was promptly stanched.
Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin said Thursday she and other officials plan to attend Chavez's inauguration on Jan. 10 as planned. "We're going to see how the president's health evolves, and whether it's done on Jan. 10 or it's postponed," Holguin said in Bogota.
Venezuela's Constitution says the president should be sworn in for a new six-year term on Jan. 10 before the National Assembly.
Maduro, whom Chavez designated as his chosen successor before the surgery, said that if the president weren't able to be sworn in as planned, "he left clear, public instructions about any scenario."
Medical experts who aren't involved in the president's treatment say his recovery is likely to take a month or more if all goes well because he had undergone several surgeries, radiation treatment and chemotherapy.
State television on Wednesday night showed a documentary about Chavez's life, including his days selling sweets on the street as a boy in the rural town where he lived with his grandmother.
Maduro praised Chavez in his Thursday speech to supporters, calling the president a unique leader and echoing some of Chavez's battle cries.
"The unpatriotic oligarchy will never return to govern this country," Maduro said. "We're all Chavez! Chavez is a nation that's on its feet! And it will never, never be defeated!"
The crowd responded, chanting, "Chavez, friend, the people are with you."