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Venezuelan VP says Chavez remains in 'delicate' condition

Vice President Nicolas Maduro traveled to Cuba this week to meet with Hugo Chavez following his cancer surgery last month.

By Ian JamesAssociated Press / January 2, 2013

A woman holds an image of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez as people gather to pray for him at a church in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012.

Ariana Cubillos/AP

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Caracas, Venezuela

Venezuela's vice president is returning home Wednesday from a visit with Hugo Chavez in Cuba and says the ailing president's condition remains "delicate" three weeks after his cancer surgery.

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With rumors swirling that Chavez had taken a turn for the worse, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday that he had met with the president twice and had spoken with him.

"He's totally conscious of the complexity of his post-operative state and he expressly asked us ... to keep the nation informed always, always with the truth, as hard as it may be in certain circumstances," Maduro said in the prerecorded interview in Havana, which was broadcast Tuesday night by the Caracas-based television network Telesur.

Both supporters and opponents of Chavez have been on edge in the past week amid shifting signals from the government about the president's health. Chavez has not been seen or heard from since the Dec. 11 operation, and officials have reported a series of ups and downs in his recovery — the most recent, on Sunday, announcing that he faced new complications from a respiratory infection.

Maduro did not provide any new details about Chavez's complications during Tuesday's interview. But he joined other Chavez allies in urging Venezuelans to ignore gossip, saying rumors were being spread due to "the hatred of the enemies of Venezuela."

He didn't refer to any rumors in particular, though one of them circulating online had described Chavez as being in a coma.

Maduro said Chavez faces "a complex and delicate situation." But Maduro also said that when he talked with the president and looked at his face, he seemed to have "the same strength as always."

"All the time we've been hoping for his positive evolution. Sometimes he has had light improvements, sometimes stationary situations," he said.

Maduro's remarks about the president came at the end of an interview in which he praised Venezuelan government programs at length, recalled the history of the Cuban revolution and touched on what he called the long-term strength of Chavez's socialist Bolivarian Revolution movement.

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