Venezuela's Chavez in delicate state after surgery

Wed Dec 12, 2012 6:58pm EST
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By Andrew Cawthorne and Brian Ellsworth

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in delicate condition after his latest surgery for cancer, the government said on Wednesday in a somber assessment that may indicate an end to his 14-year leadership of the South American OPEC nation.

Looking grave-faced in an address to the nation the day after Chavez's six-hour operation in Cuba, Vice President Nicolas Maduro urged Venezuelans to unite in prayer for the 58-year-old president and keep faith he would return soon.

"Yesterday's operation was complex, difficult and delicate, so the post-operation process will also be a complex and tough process," Maduro said, flanked by ministers who flew in to Caracas overnight after accompanying Chavez in Cuba.

Maduro spoke of "difficult" times ahead.

Chavez's downturn opens gaping uncertainty about the future of his self-styled socialist revolution in a nation of 29 million people with the world's largest oil reserves.

A frequent critic of the United States, Chavez has spearheaded a resurgence of the left in Latin America, galvanized a global "anti-imperialist" alliance from Iran to Belarus and led a decade-long push by developing nations for greater control over natural resources.

A close ally, Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, sought to put a more positive spin on the news, telling reporters in Quito that Chavez was doing all right.

"He is fine, even though the surgery was complex," Correa said, but he added that the future was not certain.   Continued...

Venezuela's vice President Nicolas Maduro (C) flanked by cabinet members statement about President Hugo Chavez's cancer surgery in Caracas December 11, 2012. Chavez's cancer operation in Cuba on Tuesday was successful, his vice president Maduro said, adding it was a complicated procedure that lasted more than six hours. REUTERS/Handout/Miraflores Palace