CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced Friday, December 28, that he will lead a government delegation to Cuba to visit President Hugo Chavez who was recovering in Havana following his December 11 cancer surgery.
In the announcement, Maduro did not specify how long the group would stay in Havana. But he said Electricity Minister Hector Navarro would assume the vice presidency during his absence.
Maduro also read a message from Chavez, in which the ailing president said he was "fighting for his health" in Cuba as he recovers from the surgery.
"During this Christmas season... I have had to fight for my health again, in order to continue devoting myself completely for the happiness of Venezuela," Chavez said in the message read by Maduro.
According to the vice president, Chavez thanked the "commitment and loyalty" of his supporters "in this very difficult time."
Chavez, 58, the face of the Latin American left for more than a decade and a firebrand critic of US "imperialism," has been in power since 1999.
He won another six-year term in October's presidential election, and is scheduled to be sworn in on January 10, but his health has raised concerns over the future of his leftist movement -- and whether he will even be well enough to attend the inauguration.
On Monday, the government said there had been a "slight improvement" in his condition as he recovers from a post-operative respiratory infection.
Officials have never disclosed the type or severity of Chavez's cancer, which was first diagnosed in June 2011, and he only designated a political successor -- Maduro -- earlier this month.
The Venezuelan leader had, in fact, asserted before embarking on his arduous re-election campaign earlier this year that he was cancer-free.
But he was later forced to admit he had suffered a relapse. - Rappler.com
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