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Venezuelan supporters pray for Hugo Chávez amid health concerns [VIDEO]

Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chávez remains quiet in Cuba weeks after receiving surgery there. As rumors of his health swirl throughout Venezuela, supporters rally to deflect opposition criticism.

By Girish GuptaContributor / June 30, 2011

In this photo released by the state media Cubadebate web site, Cuba's Fidel Castro (l.) and Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez look at Granma state newspaper at an unknown location in Havana, Cuba, on Tuesday June 28, 2011. Chávez underwent surgery in Cuba two weeks ago and has been unusually quiet since then.

Estudios Revolucion/Cubadebate/AP

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Caracas, Venezuela

Just a block away from President Hugo Chávez’s presidential palace, worshippers at the Santa Capilla church are praying for his quick return to health.

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Three weeks out of the spotlight for the leader have fueled rumors at home and abroad of health problems and concerns that the revolutionary may be on his way out as he languishes in a Cuban hospital bed.

“All the churches of this country are praying for Chávez," says Jimmy Olvas, sitting outside Santa Capilla with a boisterous group of domino players. “We pray for him to return quickly and to recover fast.”

While concerned, Chávez supporters in Caracas – known as Chavistas – remain confident in their government.

“Our ministers are doing a good job and our Comandante will be back,” says pensioner Pedro Torrulos as he stands under a large photo of Chávez in a socialist canteen, one of the president’s headline-grabbing initiatives to feed the poor of Venezuela who make up the bulk of his support.

How is Chávez doing?

Images and video of Chávez alongside Cuba’s Fidel and Raúl Castro have been released in order to quell speculation. However, many are now questioning the date on which the photos were produced.

Compounding Chávez’s long, silent absence are the contradictory statements of his government, which have only fueled speculation.

The statements of those in power signal that they are confused and themselves out of the loop. Deputy Foreign Minister Temir Porras announced on Twitter that his president was “recovering well” earlier this week while his own boss, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro has described Chávez’s “great battle” for his health.

Chávez's health issues apparently forced the government to cancel a long-planned Latin America summit scheduled for next week. The event was to be attended by many of the region’s heads of state with the aim of putting together plans for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, essentially an organization designed to counter US influence in the region.

This was to coincide with Venezuela’s bicentenary. As a firebrand revolutionary, Chávez always appears keen to grandstand at events that celebrate the break with colonization. Planning has been huge, and murals continue to be painted as helicopters swirl around Caracas in preparation for a military showcase on Tuesday. No announcement has been made on whether Chávez will be attending but it is looking unlikely with the summit canceled.

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