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Chavez to Venezuelans: 'I'm doing well'

By the CNN Wire Staff
March 2, 2012 -- Updated 0326 GMT (1126 HKT)
President Hugo Chavez has used the social media to send messages to his followers after surgery in Cuba.
President Hugo Chavez has used the social media to send messages to his followers after surgery in Cuba.
  • Post-surgery, Huge Chavez says he is "running around the hallways" in a Havana hospital
  • Venezuelan reporter says info on Chavez's health is "not encouraging"
  • He is "in good physical condition," a presidential statement says

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- In his first live public comments since undergoing surgery here on Tuesday to remove a tumor from his abdomen, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that he was on the path to recovery.

"I'm doing well," he told state-run Venezuelan Television (VTV), in a telephone call from Havana. "I say hello to everyone."

In a strong, steady voice, the 57-year-old leader said he was "running around the hallways" and eating well.

"They're preparing my lunch now; I'm waiting for a tremendous pumpkin soup." he said. "And, this morning, a good yogurt -- early, at 6 in the morning."

Chavez said he was "recovering quickly" and predicted he would soon be back in Venezuela.

On Wednesday night, a tweet from his Twitter account greeted his fellow Venezuelans: "Good evening, my dear fellow! Here I go, starting to take off as the condor! I send you all my supreme love! We will live and we shall overcome!"

According to Vice President Elias Jaua, the lesion was successfully removed Tuesday from the same area of his abdomen from which doctors removed a cancerous tumor last year. Chavez was listed "in good physical condition" after the pelvic lesion and surrounding tissues were removed, according to a presidential statement. There were no complications to nearby organs, it said.

The Venezuelan leader told state media in a phone interview last month that, based on its location, there was a high likelihood that the lesion was cancerous. In June, Chavez said doctors in Cuba had removed a cancerous tumor but did not specify the type of cancer.

He announced in October that the treatment had cured him.

Two factors have combined to make it difficult to draw independent assessments of Chavez's condition: The Venezuelan government has offered few specifics on the surgery or prognosis beyond the broad statements that he is mending quickly, and Cuba's government controls its news media.

A Brazilian reporter writing for O Globo newspaper in Rio de Janeiro offered a less sanguine view of what he said was Chavez's condition. Reporter Merval Pereira said that doctors had stabilized Chavez's health after he experienced what appeared to be a small internal hemorrhage on Wednesday that would normally have been treated with more surgery, "but his physical weakness would not permit that."

Pereira added that doctors at Havana's Center of Medical-Surgical Investigations managed to stabilize the situation without more surgery.

Pereira said the tweet attributed to Chavez that described him as recuperating "must be an attempt to hide the worsening of his health." The reporter did not cite his source, but his reporting on Chavez has proved reliable in the past.

Reporter Nestor Bocaranda wrote Thursday night in his blog in the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal that the possible hemorrhage turned out to be a drain normally used in such operations that had moved and was not draining.

Bocaranda said Chavez was on a liquid diet awaiting the results from the biopsies, which have been sent to Brazil. The results will be sent to the Venezuelan doctor who in July took frozen tissue samples from Chavez's first extracted tumor to Tufts Medical Center in Boston, the reporter said.

Earlier, Bocaranda had written that news from the island about Chavez's health was "not encouraging."

The surgery confirmed fears raised over the weekend in Havana -- and before that, in Caracas -- by CT scans and physical exam, he said. A Brazilian doctor who is among the physicians who are charting the course of treatment for the president said the use of steroids would be halted, Bocaranda said. The physician said they had given Chavez strength and energy and made him look hardy but had proved counterproductive, the reporter added. Bocaranda said doctors who were consulted at the Syrian-Lebanese Hospital in San Paulo blamed the powerful drugs for the rapid advance of the tumor.

He added that any decisions on any future treatment would be based on the results of biopsies taken during what he said was a one-hour, 45-minute operation. "If the decision is to apply a new round of chemotherapy beginning in April, as we suggested here last week, the use of steroids will be prohibited," he wrote.

Bocaranda added that Chavez is concerned about his image and worried that a strong round of chemotherapy could reveal his physical deterioration. And he said that he had learned that medical officials in Havana, paranoid about how Bocaranda was getting his information, were interrogating doctors and nurses in an attempt to find the information leak.

Bocaranda's reporting about Chavez's health has also proved reliable in the past.

But, in a posting on VTV's website, National Assembly member Pedro Carreno dismissed such commentary. "The fatalistic diagnoses offered by the opposition don't square with reality," he said.

Word of this week's operation comes about seven months ahead of presidential elections in Venezuela.

CNN's Nelson Quinones contributed to this report.

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