Chavez Preparing Venezuela Return, Bolivia’s Morales Says

Bolivian President Evo Morales said cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez is preparing to return home, a day after Venezuela’s foreign minister said the self-declared socialist joked and laughed during a meeting at his hospital bedside in Havana.

“Yesterday I was in communication with Cuba and I have good news that our brother comandante President Chavez is already in physiotherapy in order to return to his country,” Morales said during a speech in Bolivia’s congress broadcast on Telesur. “We hope to be alongside him at international events as we have always been.”

The 58-year-old leader missed his Jan. 10 inauguration and hasn’t been seen in public since stepping off an airplane in Cuba on Dec. 10 for surgery to treat an undisclosed cancer. Morales’s comments are the latest indication that Chavez’s health is improving since Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on Jan. 20 that the former paratrooper will soon enter a new stage in his recovery.

Elias Jaua, who was appointed foreign minister last week, said in a posting on his Twitter account yesterday that he met with Chavez at the CIMEQ hospital in Cuba and received instructions from the president ahead of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit that will be held in Santiago, Chile this week.

No date has been set for Chavez to return to Caracas as he continues to face a “tough, complex health battle,” Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said today on state television.

Best Case

Argenis Chavez, the president’s brother, also said Chavez would return to Venezuela shortly yesterday, according to a report by the Associated Press, which he later denied.

The constitution states that elections must be held within 30 days should Chavez step down or die. Before departing for Havana, Chavez urged his followers to vote for Maduro should he be unable to continue at the helm of South America’s largest oil producer.

The best scenario for Venezuela’s government would be for Chavez to come back to Caracas, be sworn in for his new term and then resign, Barclays Plc said today in an e-mailed report.

“Besides Maduro enjoying the advantage of being the incumbent, this would lead to a presidential election in the very short term, affording him the sympathy effect created by Chavez’s health problems, and would still find the opposition in a weak position after the two defeats they suffered last year,” Barclays analysts Alejandro Arreaza and Alejandro Grisanti wrote in the note.

‘Prudent Time’

Chavez has permission to be away for a “prudent time period,” Supreme Court President Luisa Estella Morales said yesterday, without specifying a limit beyond which the court would consider new measures. The idea that Chavez could take the oath from Cuba “was never on the table,” nor has the court contemplated sending a panel of doctors to evaluate his health, Morales said during an interview on state television.

“It would make no sense to invade in a disrespectful manner the head of state’s privacy by sending a medical board,” Morales said.

Yields on Venezuela’s benchmark 9.25 percent bonds due in 2027 fell eight basis points, or 0.08 percentage point, to 9.24 percent at 3 p.m. in Caracas. The price rose 0.66 cent to 100.03 cents on the dollar.