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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.

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He mentioned that former Cuban President Fidel Castro had been in the hospital, and praised Cuba's government effusively. "Today we're together on a single path," Maduro said.

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Critics in Venezuela sounded off on Twitter while the interview was aired, some saying Maduro sounded like a mouthpiece for the Cuban government. In their messages, many Chavez opponents criticized Maduro for the dearth of information he provided, accusing him of withholding key details about Chavez's condition.

Chavez's political opponents have complained that the government hasn't told the country nearly enough about his health, and have demanded it provide the country with a full medical report.

Even some of his supporters say they wished they knew more.

"We're distressed by El Comandante's health," said Francisca Fuentes, who was walking through a downtown square with her grandchildren Tuesday. "I think they aren't telling us the whole truth. It's time for them to speak clearly. It's like when you have a sick relative and the doctor lies to you every once in a while."

Chavez has been fighting an undisclosed type of pelvic cancer since June 2011. He has declined to reveal the precise location of the tumors that have been surgically removed. The president announced on Dec. 8, two month after winning re-election, that his cancer had come back despite previous surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

"There's nothing we can do except wait for the government to deign to say how he is really," said Daniel Jimenez, an opposition supporter who was in a square in an affluent Caracas neighborhood.

Jimenez and many other Venezuelans say it seems increasingly unlikely that Chavez can be sworn in as scheduled Jan. 10 for his new term. If he dies or is unable to continue in office, the Venezuelan Constitution says a new election should be held within 30 days.

Before his operation, Chavez acknowledged he faced risks and designated Maduro as his successor, telling supporters they should vote for the vice president if a new presidential election was necessary.

Maduro didn't discuss the upcoming inauguration plans, saying only that he is hopeful Chavez will improve.

The vice president said that Chavez "has faced an illness with courage and dignity, and he's there fighting, fighting."

"Someone asked me yesterday by text message: How is the president? And I said, 'With giant strength,'" Maduro said. He recalled taking Chavez by the hand: "He squeezed me with gigantic strength as we talked."

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