Chavez images shown to quell health rumors after surgery
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