Venezuela’s Maduro Says Chavez to Start New Step in Recovery

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez will soon enter a new stage in his recovery from a fourth cancer operation in Cuba, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said, without providing further details.

Maduro says he last saw Chavez Jan. 14 during a visit to the Venezuelan president’s bedside in Cuba.

“He is stabilizing in all his medical indicators, in the function of his organs, in all his fundamental vital indicators and is fully conscious,” Maduro said today in an interview on the Televen television network. “He is gaining vital strength to begin a second stage of recovery that will be announced through official reports.”

Chavez, who suffered breathing difficulties from a lung infection and bleeding following the operation five weeks ago, is sending Maduro “permanent instructions” as his deputy fills in during the recovery, he said. In their last face-to-face meeting, Chavez gave Maduro permission to deliver the presidency’s annual report to the National Assembly and they spoke about oil prices, the budget and social programs, Maduro said.

Venezuela’s 58-year-old leader has been battling a lung infection following the operation that prevented him from attending his own swearing-in ceremony Jan. 10 and hasn’t been seen or heard from since the surgery in Havana Dec. 11.

The Supreme Court endorsed delaying the inauguration, leaving Maduro, Chavez’s handpicked successor, to run affairs in South America’s biggest oil exporter. The opposition has called the move a violation of the constitution.

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