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Chavez stay in Cuba could last for months, official says

By the CNN Wire Staff
Doctors in Cuba removed a cancerous tumor from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's body, the president said Thursday.
Doctors in Cuba removed a cancerous tumor from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's body, the president said Thursday.
  • The vice president says Chavez will be back before 180 days
  • The time frame is much longer than originally stated
  • Chavez will meet with three Cabinet ministers on Saturday

(CNN) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's stay in Cuba, where he is being treated for cancer, could last for months, the country's vice president told a Colombian radio station.

Vice President Elias Jaua told W Radio Friday that Chavez would return to Venezuela "before 180 days."

The timetable is much larger than initial government claims that Chavez would return by July 5.

Chavez this week admitted that he had a cancerous tumor removed and was undergoing further treatment. The announcement confirmed rumors as his stay in Cuba extended, despite government reports that he had undergone a simple procedure.

So far, the government says that Chavez is remotely carrying out all his duties and is not in any form incapacitated in a way that would prevent him from doing so. From Cuba, Chavez has overseen a prison standoff that is going on its third week, and has given his ministers orders, officials have said.

Chavez details recent surgery in speech
Chavez walks with Cuba's Castro
  • Hugo Chavez
  • Venezuela
  • Cuba
  • Cancer

But the Venezuelan constitution states that in the event of an absence, the executive powers must be transferred to the vice president, opposition politicians say.

Specifically, Article 234 of the document states that for a "temporary absence" of the president of up to 90 days, the vice president will fill in for him. This period can be extended an additional 90 days by lawmakers.

The pro-Chavez majority in Congress is likely to block any vote to label Chavez as "temporarily absent," but Jaua appeared to be referring to the law when he said the president would be back before 180 days.

In the meantime, the government continues to push the image of a Chavez carrying out his presidential duties from Cuba.

On Saturday, Chavez was to meet in Cuba with several of his Cabinet members, the state-run AVN news agency reported. The meeting, which will be broadcast by Cuban television, will include Agriculture Minister Juan Carlos Loyo, Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez, and Science, Technology and Industry Minister Ricardo Menendez, the agency reported.

The government on Friday released video footage of a similar meeting Chavez held with his top general, foreign minister and his brother, who is a governor.