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Chavez still in 'delicate' condition three weeks after surgery, Venezuelan VP says

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
January 3, 2013 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chavez underwent cancer surgery in Cuba three weeks ago
  • Vice President Maduro says Chavez's health condition remains delicate
  • Chavez is suffering complications from a respiratory infection, Maduro says
  • Chavez has not disclosed what type of cancer he has

Read a version of this story in Arabic.

(CNN) -- Three weeks after undergoing cancer surgery, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez remains in delicate condition and has seen only slight improvement in his health, the country's vice president said Tuesday.

"All the time we are hoping for his positive evolution," Vice President Nicolas Maduro said in an interview broadcast Tuesday night on Venezuelan state media. "Sometimes, he has had slight improvements. Sometimes, he has remained stable."

In the past four days, Maduro said, he had visited and spoken with Chavez twice and noted the Venezuelan president's great strength as he fights to recover.

"You greet him with the left hand ... He squeezed me with a gigantic strength while we were talking," Maduro said, speaking to a reporter from the teleSUR network in Havana, Cuba, where Chavez is undergoing treatment.

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Chavez is "absolutely aware of the complexity of his post-operative state," Maduro said, "and he explicitly told us that we should keep the people informed always, always with the truth."

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Maduro said government officials have provided regular updates about Chavez's health and he accused right-wing political opponents of propagating rumors about the situation.

"They are capable of inventing, manipulating and creating situations of anxiety," he said. "They are capable of mocking delicate situations like what we have gone through."

The interview came two days after Maduro announced that Chavez, 58, was suffering from new complications.

He said Sunday that the complications emerged as a result of a respiratory infection the Venezuelan president has been battling. Maduro did not provide additional details, but said Chavez was "being treated in a process that is not without risks."

The Venezuelan president first announced he was battling cancer in June 2011.

Chavez has not disclosed what type of cancer he has, and the Venezuelan government has released few details about his illness, fueling widespread speculation about his health and political future.

Last year, Chavez had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor and he has undergone further surgery and radiation in Cuba since. He returned to the island nation last month for more surgery after publicly revealing that his cancer had returned.

He underwent a six-hour surgical procedure on December 11 that Maduro, in a televised address, declared a success.

On Tuesday, Maduro said he planned to return to Venezuela on Wednesday and was optimistic that Chavez's health would improve.

"We have the confidence and faith in God and in the doctors that our Comandante Hugo Chavez will keep getting better," he said, "and sooner rather than later he will come out of this complicated and delicate situation he's in."

Venezuela deports French man over alleged Chavez plot

CNN's Dana Ford contributed to this report.

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