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Top Venezuelan leaders head to Havana, Chavez's bedside

Venezuela's vice president, head of congress, and oil minister traveled to Havana, Cuba on Sunday to check on the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Chavez has not spoken publicly since he underwent cancer surgery a month ago.

By Andrew CawthorneReuters / January 13, 2013

A man holding a framed image of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez and other parishioners file out of the Cathedral after attending a Mass to pray for the recovery of Chavez, in Havana, Cuba, Saturday. The 58-year-old president is fighting a severe respiratory infection a month after he underwent cancer surgery in Havana, his government says. Venezuelan officials traveled to Havana Sunday.

Ramon Espinosa/AP

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Caracas

Venezuela's three most powerful government figures after President Hugo Chavez were again gathered in Havana on Sunday to check on their ailing leader's condition and meet with Cuban allies.

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Vice-President Nicolas MaduroCongress head Diosdado Cabello, and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez have been shuttling to and from Cuba since the 58-year-old socialist president's fourth and most serious cancer surgery a month ago.

Chavez, who missed his own inauguration for a new, six-year term last week, has not been seen or heard from in public since the surgery. Many Venezuelans are assuming his momentous 14-year rule of the South American OPEC nation could be nearing an end.

RECOMMENDED: Venezuela after Chavez

Though acknowledging the gravity of the situation, officials are trying to stay upbeat on socialist president's prospects for recovery, and Chavez's brother on Saturday denied that Chavez was in a coma.

"We are all Chavez!" and "Chavez will return!" were among slogans sang and chanted at numerous solidarity rallies, meetings and concerts across Venezuela over the weekend drawing thousands of passionate and anxious supporters.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said Maduro, who Chavez recently designated as his successor, informed Venezuela's leader of the support for him back home. He gave no more details of their encounter or the president's condition.

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