VENEZUELAN President Hugo Chavez, who is recovering in Cuba after a fourth cancer surgery, is improving each day and becoming more engaged in his work, a top aide says.
Chavez is getting “better each day, and more involved in his official duties,” Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza told VTV television by phone from Havana.
Arreaza, who is also Chavez’s son-in-law and has served as a family spokesman in recent weeks, said he had just come from a meeting with the Venezuelan leader.
The 58-year-old president was in full command of his mental faculties and “giving orders like a dynamo,” Arreaza said.
Chavez – leader of the country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves – is convalescing from cancer surgery in Cuba and has not been seen or heard from since his latest operation on December 11.
Venezuela’s government has said the absent leader suffered a lung infection following his treatment that he subsequently overcame.
Officials have also said that Chavez is signing documents, and even cracking jokes with aides.
But for many Venezuelans, the idea that Chavez – a garrulous and bombastic leader who typically is seen for several hours every day on state radio and television – would choose to be silent is so unthinkable that it calls the government’s account of his health into question.
On Saturday, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Chavez had entered a phase of “complementary treatment to combat his illness”.
Maduro, Chavez’s handpicked political heir, did not say if that meant more radiation therapy, chemotherapy or some alternative cancer care, and no date was given for when the president will return to Caracas.
The president is a former paratrooper who first came to power in the South American country in 1999.
He won another six-year term in October’s election, despite questions about his health.
Throughout his illness, first detected in June 2011, Chavez has refused to relinquish the powers of the presidency, even when leaving for Cuba last month.
He was too sick to attend his own January 10 inauguration, prompting the government to delay the swearing-in indefinitely under an interpretation of the constitution that was heavily criticised by the opposition.