Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has improved after a cancer operation in Cuba and has started walking and exercising, country’s Vice-President Nicolas Maduro has said.
Nicolas Maduro told state TV he had spoken on the phone to HUgo Chavez, describing the call as “the best present we could get this Christmas”.
Hugo Chavez underwent his fourth cancer operation on December 11 in Cuba but suffered a respiratory infection.
President Hugo Chavez – in power since 1999 – won another term in October’s election.
Earlier, Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said: “The patient has shown a slight improvement in his condition.”
However, no pictures of HUgo Chavez after the surgery have been released so far.
Hugo Chavez, 58, is scheduled to be sworn in on January 10.
The lack of any word from Hugo Chavez for two weeks prior to the comments by the two senior officials raised serious concerns about his current condition and his ability to attend the swearing-in ceremony.
Bolivian President Evo Morales was in Cuba over the weekend but did not speak to reporters and a Cuban government invitation for media to cover his arrival and departure was withdrawn.
Evo Morales is expected to issue a statement later on Hugo Chavez’s condition.
The country’s constitution states that elections must be held within 30 days if there is an “absolute absence” of the president.
But National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello has said Venezuela will not call fresh elections if President Hugo Chavez is unable to be sworn in on 10 January.
Diosdado Cabello said the swearing-in ceremony would be delayed.
“Since [President] Chavez might not be here on 10 January, [the opposition] hopes the National Assembly will call elections. That’s not going to happen. Commandante Hugo Chavez will continue to be our president,” Diosdado Cabello said.
According to Diosdado Cabello, the constitution allows him to be sworn in before Supreme Court justices, but it does not stipulate when or where.
Hugo Chavez has said Venezuelans should vote for Nicolas Maduro in fresh elections, should his health fail.