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Chavez conscious, says deputy

CARACAS — Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is conscious but in a “delicate and complex situation” after a cancer operation in Cuba, his deputy says.

Vice-President Nicolas Maduro said he had seen the president twice in the past two days.

The 58-year-old president has been in power since 1999 and was elected for a fourth term in office in October.

He is due to be sworn in for a new term on 10 January, but it is unclear if he will be able to attend ceremony.

But Maduro angrily denounced speculation the president’s health was failing.

Earlier, Venezuelan cabinet ministers prayed for Chavez’s recovery during a Mass at the presidential palace in Caracas.

Official New Year celebrations were called off after Maduro announced the president had suffered new complications.

Speaking in Havana, Maduro said he had visited Chavez in hospital twice since arriving on Saturday.

“We have faith in God and in the doctors that Hugo Chavez will continue to make progress and sooner or later will emerge from this complex and delicate post-operative state he is in,” he told the Latin American satellite network Telesur.

But he gave very little further concrete information about the condition of the president, who underwent his operation on December 11.

He said Chavez gripped his hand “with enormous strength” as they spoke, discussing political matters, the economy in Venezuela and the swearing-in of new governors following regional elections.

He denounced what he called right-wing media rumours about Chavez’s health as the work of “mentally ill” people, saying they were inventing and manipulating information without respect for Chavez or his family. (BBC)

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