The health saga of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez apparently took a positive turn this week, as Chavez reportedly met with his foreign minister and made decisions about the country’s agenda while still recuperating in Cuba from his cancer surgery.
The charismatic leader, whose condition has been the focus of intense speculation in Venezuela, met with Foreign Minister Elias Jaua, who said Chavez “made decisions about the international agenda, the domestic agenda.”
Jaua’s comments, which were made in a telephone call, were broadcast live on Venezuelan television as officials try to reassure the public that Chavez is vibrant and on his way to a full recovery. Chavez has not been seen or heard from in public since his Dec. 11 surgery for pelvic cancer.
“The president is in (a) full process of recuperation. However, he is coming from the most complex and deepest battle against the illness,” Jaua said, without giving details.
Jaua was reportedly joined in Havana by Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez and Attorney General Cilia Flores, as well as the president’s elder brother, Adan Chavez.
Earlier this week, Bolivian President Evo Morales, a fellow leftist and close friend of Chavez, said in a speech to his parliament in La Paz that Chavez was improving and may be able to return soon to Venezuela.
“I communicated with Cuba and, brothers and sisters, we have good news about our brother, President Hugo Chavez. He is already undergoing physical therapy to return to his country,” Morales said. “Latin American leaders like Fidel (Castro) and Hugo Chavez are very much needed at international events, and I’m certain that soon we will be (together again) at presidential summits.”
Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said there wasn’t yet a return date for Chavez.
Though still in a “difficult” and “complex” battle for his health, the latest news from Havana was promising and Chavez, 58, was in “good spirits,” the minister said in comments carried live on TV after a cabinet meeting in Caracas.
“Commander Chavez is in Havana in the process of full re-establishment of his health,” Villegas said. “The (latest) report was very encouraging … There is no return date yet.”
Earlier this month on the day Chavez was supposed to be sworn in after his reelection last October, thousands of Chavez loyalists thronged the streets of Caracas and acted as red-shirted stand-ins for their leader in a simulation of a swearing-in, listening to fiery anti-Western speeches from the leaders of two Latin American countries, Bolivia and Uruguay.
But there was still a sense of uncertainty and worry in the air. Normally Chavez never lets pass an opportunity to address his public, even when he’s not in the country. In the past he has spoken from abroad in broadcast phone conversations. So it is odd for the people to not have heard anything from him in weeks, leading many in the Chavez opposition to speculate that he may not even be alive.
But if he is not alive, the leaders of other nations would have to be in on the deception. Argentine President Cristina Kirchner traveled to Havana earlier this month to visit Chavez and offer her support, saying she had brought a Bible for him.