Venezuela's Chavez improving after surgery: officials
By Brian Ellsworth and Diego Ore
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is improving after a cancer operation in Cuba and has started exercising, officials said on Monday, amid doubts over whether the former soldier is in good enough health to continue governing.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro said he had spoken by phone with Chavez, who was walking and doing exercises as part of his treatment.
"We've gotten the best present we could get this Christmas: a phone call from our commander president," Maduro said on state television.
Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said earlier in the day that Chavez had "shown a slight improvement in his condition," without providing details.
Chavez has not been heard from in two weeks following a fourth operation for an unspecified type of cancer in the pelvic region. The government has said he suffered post-operatory complications including unexpected bleeding and a lung infection, but offered few details about his actual condition.
His death, or even his resignation for health reasons, would upend the politics of the South American OPEC nation where his personalized brand of oil-financed socialism has made him a hero to the poor but a pariah to critics who call him a dictator.
His allies are now openly discussing the possibility that he may not be back in time to be sworn in for his third six-year term on the constitutionally mandated date of January 10.
Opposition leaders say a delay to his taking power would be another signal that Chavez is not in condition to govern and that fresh elections should be called to choose his replacement. Continued...