Venezuela’s Chavez Held 5-Hour Meeting With Cabinet

Venezuela’s ailing President Hugo Chavez discussed economic policy and national security with his Cabinet for five hours yesterday at a military hospital in Caracas, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said.

Chavez and his team worked on measures to fight inflation and guarantee resources in bolivars and dollars for public spending, economic policy moves to be announced over the coming weeks, Maduro said last night on state television.

“The president was clear about the speculative attack on our currency and product hoarding and said that we have to increase actions to fight the economic war being waged by the bourgeois,” Maduro said.

Chavez communicated by written notes during the meeting, Maduro said. The one-time paratrooper is under intensive treatment for “respiratory insufficiency” and can’t speak because of a breathing tube.

“He had a vibrant smile,” Maduro said. “He has immense strength, and we left the meeting full of his energy.”

Caracas Return

Chavez returned to Caracas on Feb. 18 after more than two months of treatment in Cuba. Apart from photos released this month and Twitter messages sent by Chavez upon arrival, he hasn’t been seen in public since traveling to Havana for his fourth cancer surgery in 20 months. No images of his arrival or hospital stay have been released by the government.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said on Feb. 21 that the tendency of Chavez’s respiratory problem “hasn’t been favorable.”

“There’s only one president in Venezuela, and that’s Chavez,” Maduro said today on state television, adding that the breathing tube he is using has not prevented him from giving instructions. “We are absolutely subordinate to his orders. We’re his soldiers.”

Opposition politicians staged a rally today in Central Caracas to protest the lack of information about Chavez’s health and economic measures, including a 32 percent devaluation announced on Feb. 8, television network Globovision reported on its website.

Opposition parties will begin holding meetings to choose a unity candidate for elections, should they be called if Chavez is unable to complete his term, Globovision cited Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma as saying.

Chavez last year urged Venezuelans to support Maduro if he is unable to complete his term and elections are called.

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