Venezuelan president 'improving'

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 22 2013 9:05 p.m. MST

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in good spirits and recovering six weeks after he underwent cancer surgery in Cuba, his government said Tuesday in a continuation of more upbeat assessments of the leader's fragile health.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said officials received a "very encouraging" report Tuesday about the president's condition from Jorge Arreaza, Chavez's son-in-law and science minister.

Villegas said after a Cabinet meeting that there was still no date set for Chavez's return to Venezuela. The president underwent his fourth cancer-related operation in Havana on Dec. 11 and hasn't appeared or spoken publicly since.

The government has said the 58-year-old president is improving after suffering complications including a severe respiratory infection.

Chavez is showing strength during a "hard, complex" struggle, Villegas said.

"He's attentive to the development of events in Venezuela," he said, adding that when Foreign Minister Elias Jaua met with Chavez in Cuba on Monday, the president was in "very good spirits."

Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday there had been "important advancements in the post-operative recovery process of President Chavez, which motivates us, which fills us with happiness."

Addressing the president as if he were watching the televised event, Maduro said: "You, commander Chavez, stay disciplined and calm. There's no rush. Calm. What's important is that you recover with quality."

The vice president said the government will continue to pursue a socialist-oriented plan that was drawn up ahead of Chavez's re-election in October.

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