Venezuela official: 'encouraging' report on Chavez

Associated Press
A pedestrian walks before a stenciled graffiti that reads in Spanish: "I am Chavez," in downtown Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, normally at the center of national attention, is so ill following a fourth cancer surgery in Cuba that he has made no broadcast statement in more than a month, and has not appeared in a single photo. During Chavez's five-week absence, some Venezuelans have begun speculating about whether his cancer could force him from office and require a new presidential election. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
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A pedestrian walks before a stenciled graffiti that reads in Spanish: "I am Chavez," in downtown Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, normally at the center of national attention, is so ill following a fourth cancer surgery in Cuba that he has made no broadcast statement in more than a month, and has not appeared in a single photo. During Chavez's five-week absence, some Venezuelans have begun speculating about whether his cancer could force him from office and require a new presidential election. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in good spirits and recovering six weeks after he underwent cancer surgery in Cuba, a government spokesman said Tuesday, continuing more upbeat assessments of the leader's fragile health.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said officials received a "very encouraging" report about the president's health from Jorge Arreaza, Chavez's son-in-law and science minister.

Villegas said after Tuesday's Cabinet meeting that there was still no date for Chavez's return to Venezuela. The president underwent his fourth cancer-related operation in Havana on Dec. 11 and hasn't appeared or spoken publicly since.

Chavez is showing strength during a "hard, complex" health struggle, Villegas said. The government has said the 58-year-old president is improving after suffering complications including a severe respiratory infection.

"He's attentive to the development of events in Venezuela," Villegas said. He added that when Foreign Minister Elias Jaua met with Chavez in Cuba on Monday, the president was in "very good spirits." Jaua said Monday on Twitter that they had shared jokes together.

In Bolivia on Tuesday, President Evo Morales said in remarks to the National Assembly that his ally Chavez "is now receiving physical therapy" so that he can return home. Morales said he expects to see the Venezuelan president attending "international events" soon but didn't specify which events.

Chavez has undergone surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatment since June 2011 for an undisclosed type of pelvic cancer. The government has recently provided regular updates about Chavez's condition but hasn't given specifics about the location of the tumors that have been previously removed or what procedures were performed during the latest surgery.

No photographs of Chavez have been released since he arrived in Cuba, and some government opponents have been asking why the president has not addressed the country by phone as he did during previous treatments in Havana.

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