Ailing Chavez stays 'in charge as chief'
Updated: 2013-03-04 07:48
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is still in charge and mulling over political, social and economic policies as he receives a new round of chemotherapy, his vice-president said on Saturday.
Vice-President Nicolas Maduro said the 58-year-old leader, who is convalescing in seclusion at a Caracas military hospital, had sent "guidance" to his Cabinet as recently as on Friday.
"He is staying informed and in charge as the chief who was ratified by our people various times," Maduro said during an event broadcast on state-run television.
The opposition, however, said the government is lying about Chavez's condition and doubts Maduro's claim that Chavez held a five-hour meeting with his Cabinet on Feb 22, giving orders in writing because a tracheal tube hinders his speech.
Maduro cast the doubts aside and repeated that the meeting had taken place, insisting that the president had sent further instructions in the following day, before offering fresh guidance on Friday.
"He is taking his time, but as in all stages, there are vital decisions that only he could evaluate and make," Maduro said, showing a folder containing documents corrected by Chavez.
"The president has requested a series of documents. We send him this core document that already contains a series of guidelines that came in last Friday's meeting," he said.
Maduro said Chavez's recovery process has been "totally different" to other operations because the surgery on Dec 11 in Havana was "more sensitive".
Earlier in the day, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua appealed to the public to let Chavez remain "quiet" while receiving cancer treatments, a day after the government confirmed that the president is undergoing chemotherapy.
"Those who want to see Chavez recovered and healthy should keep quiet," said Jaua in a ceremony in Caracas.
Chavez has been in power for 14 years. In October, he was re-elected to a third six-year term but was not able to be sworn in as scheduled on Jan 10 due to serious health problems.
According to official information, Chavez suffered a severe respiratory infection after the six-hour operation he had in Cuba in December. His cancer was first detected in his pelvic region in June 2011, yet no one in the Chavez administration has ever disclosed what type of cancer the president has.
After seeking medical treatment for 70 days in Cuba, he came back to Venezuela late last month. Yet he has been unable to appear before the public since then except in a number of pictures disclosed by the government that were taken in Cuba, showing that he was lying in bed in the company of his two daughters.
The Venezuelan opposition has called for the president to appear or resign, if he cannot serve in office. The government, which insists that Chavez is still in charge, accuses the opposition of spreading rumors and trying to "destabilize" the country.