Much mystery has surrounded Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s condition after his latest cancer surgery in Cuba on December 11.
According to a recent statement from the Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro reported by the Associated Press, however, Hugo Chavez is up and walking, and even doing some recovery exercises.
The statement is in fact the first time a government official has confirmed personally speaking with Chavez since his operation.
“He was in a good mood,” Maduro said in a 20-minute television segment. “He was walking, he was exercising. He wants to send a hug from the comandante to all the girls and boys in the country who will soon be receiving a visit from baby Jesus.”
Many in Venezuela still doubt the veracity of these reports, however, alleging they might come from a last effort to bring some sense of stability to the nation, something that has been lacking since first reports came out on Chavez’s health status.
In May of 2012, an exclusive report from Dan Rather broke the news the Venezuelan president was suffering from a rare form of cancer known as rhabdomyosarcoma. The condition, which is most common in children, has taken Chavez through two cancer surgeries and a number of chemotherapy and radiation sessions.
Hugo Chavez has been out of the public eye since his most recent surgery, and reports from the media listed his condition as serious when a word of a post-surgical respiratory infection surfaced.
While Vice President Maduro’s interview is seen as an indicator of Chavez’s recovery, experts indicate the overall prognosis for the president remains poor. Dr. Michael Pishvaian, an oncologist at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, told the Associated Pressin a phone interview the outlook remained poor, though President Hugo Chavez would likely be able to return to Venezuela soon if he were up and walking.
“It’s definitely good news. It means that he is on the road to recover fully from the surgery,” Pishvaian said in the interview. “The overall prognosis is still pretty poor. He likely has a terminal diagnosis with his cancer that has come back.”
Returning to Venezuela soon is important if Hugo Chavez wishes to retain his elected position. The New York Times reports a constitutional provision in the Venezuelan law states of Chavez is not sworn in to office while in Venezuela by January 10, a new presidential election will be held within 30 days. The provision is being debated, however, as elected officials who strongly support Chavez note the law’s interpretation leaves a bit of breathing room.
“Jan. 10 is a date that the Constitution holds as a formality for the swearing-in,” Attorney General Cilia Flores said Monday in televised remarks to reporters after a church service. “What we have is a president who has been re-elected, and he will be sworn in on that day or on another later date.”