Chavez im­ages shown to quell health ru­mors af­ter surgery

Shanghai Daily - - WORLD -

HUGO Chavez has reap­peared in pho­tos and videos on state tele­vi­sion, chat­ting with Fidel Cas­tro in Cuba af­ter a pro­longed seclusion fol­low­ing surgery that has left Venezue­lans guess­ing about their pres­i­dent’s health.

The im­ages aired on Tues­day night were the first to be re­leased in 10 days and showed Chavez talk­ing an­i­mat­edly, both on his feet next to Cas­tro and seated along­side one of his daugh­ters.

Venezue­lan govern­ment of­fi­cials again said the 56-year- old Chavez is re­cu­per­at­ing smoothly af­ter pelvic surgery, but they gave no de­tails about his con­di­tion or about when he might re­turn home.

“We see him re­cov­er­ing, fully re­cov­er­ing,” In­for­ma­tion Min­is­ter An­dres Izarra said on state tele­vi­sion as the short video clips and pho­to­graphs were shown.

Izarra said the en­counter in Cuba took place on Tues­day, and Cuban state tele­vi­sion also broad­cast pic­tures of the get-to­gether.

Usu­ally a pro­lific speaker who makes tele­vised speeches most days, Chavez has been largely out of sight since the govern­ment an­nounced on June 10 that he had un­der­gone pelvic surgery. He spoke once in a tele­phone call to state tele­vi­sion two days af­ter the oper­a­tion, and ap­peared in pho­to­graphs along­side both Fidel and Raul Cas­tro that were pub­lished on June 18.

Chavez has said the surgery re­moved a pelvic ab­scess, yet a lack of de­tails about his con­di­tion has fed wide­spread spec­u­la­tion and talk in Venezuela that the pres­i­dent might be very ill.

Vice Pres­i­dent Elias Jaua has led govern­ment events in Chavez’s ab­sence. The left­ist pres­i­dent’s el­der brother, Adan, ral­lied sup­port­ers at a prayer meet­ing for Chavez’s health on Sun­day.

While Venezue­lans have won­dered and de­bated about Chavez’s long si­lence, his po­lit­i­cal al­lies have in­sisted he is im­prov­ing and is firmly in con­trol of af­fairs in Venezuela.

Still, of­fi­cials have not said how soon Chavez might re­turn to Venezuela, which next week will be cel­e­brat­ing the 200th an­niver­sary of its in­de­pen­dence from Spain.

At one point in the videos, Chavez and Cas­tro look at a copy of Cuba’s Com­mu­nist Party news­pa­per Granma and ap­peared to dis­cuss it.

“They dis­cussed dif­fer­ent cur­rent events,” Izarra said.

Some of Chavez’s po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents were not con­vinced that Chavez looked healthy.

“I saw him look­ing very thin. His face looked very thin,” said Gus­tavo Azo­car, an op­po­si­tion politi­cian. “I find it strange that state tele­vi­sion shows the pres­i­dent talk­ing with Fidel Cas­tro, but it does not broad­cast him talk­ing to the coun­try.”

Op­po­si­tion politi­cians have com­plained that the govern­ment has not pro­vided ad­e­quate in­for­ma­tion about Chavez’s health.

Venezuela’s Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez ( right) speaks to Cuba’s Fidel Cas­tro ( left) as Chavez’s daugh­ter Rosa looks on at an un­known lo­ca­tion in Cuba on Tues­day. This is Chavez’s first ap­pear­ance in the me­dia since his surgery. — AP

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