THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published — Thursday 3 January 2013
Last update 3 January 2013 12:55 am
CARACAS, Venezuela: With rumors swirling that Chavez had taken a turn for the worse, Vice Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that he had met with the president twice, spoken with him and had planned to return to Venezuela yesterday.
Maduro said Chavez faces “a complex and delicate situation.”
But Maduro also said that when he talked with the president and looked at his face, he seemed to have “the same strength as always.”
“All the time we’ve been hoping for his positive evolution. Sometimes he has had light improvements, sometimes stationary situations,” Maduro said in the prerecorded interview, which was broadcast Tuesday night by a TV network.
“I was able to see him twice, converse with him. He’s totally conscious of the complexity of his post-operative state and he expressly asked us ... to keep the nation informed always, always with the truth, as hard as it may be in certain circumstances,” Maduro said.
Chavez has not been seen or heard from since the Dec. 11 operation, and officials have reported a series of ups and downs in his recovery — the most recent, on Sunday, announcing that new complications from a respiratory infection had put the president in a “delicate” state.
Speculation has grown since Maduro announced those latest troubles, which were a sharp shift from his remark nearly a week earlier that the president had been up and walking.
In Tuesday’s interview, Maduro did not provide any new details about Chavez’s complications. But he joined other Chavez allies in urging Venezuelans to ignore gossip, saying rumors are being spread due to “the hatred of the enemies of Venezuela.”
Political opponents of Chavez have complained that the government hasn’t told the country nearly enough about his health.
Maduro’s remarks about the president came at the end of an interview in which he praised his government’s programs at length, recalled the history of the Cuban revolution and touched on what he called the long-term strength of Chavez’s socialist Bolivian Revolution movement.
He mentioned that former Cuban President Fidel Castro had been in the hospital, and praised Cuba’s government effusively. “Today we’re together on a single path,” Maduro said.
Before his operation, Chavez acknowledged he faced risks and designated Maduro as his successor, telling supporters they should vote for the vice president if a new presidential election was necessary.