Venezuela’s government has released five photographs of President Hugo Chavez that show him walking and conversing with Fidel Castro while convalescing after undergoing tumor surgery in Cuba.
Venezuelan Communications Minister Andres Izarra said Chavez also met with the island’s head of state, Raul Castro, and received a phone call from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who told him she was very pleased to learn he was making a swift recovery.
She also conveyed well wishes from former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Izarra, who posted the photos on Twitter, said in another message that Rousseff urged Chavez to strictly follow his treatment regimen and that the Venezuelan president was energized and pleased with the phone call.
The minister released a photograph showing Fidel Castro and Chavez sitting in a room and chatting along with a caption that read: “Fidel visited Chavez in Havana (Friday) afternoon and they talked for nearly 2 hours. Later Raul (Castro) joined them.”
In another photo, Chavez can be seen walking down the hall at the Havana hospital where he is undergoing treatment, accompanied by a nurse and his science and technology minister, Jorge Arreaza.
Chavez arrived in Havana on Feb. 24 and three days later underwent surgery to extract a lesion and the “surrounding tissue” from his pelvic region, although no further details have been released about the operation or whether the tumor is cancerous.
“I’m going to walk. I’m walking well already,” Chavez told his industry minister, Ricardo Menendez, in a phone conversation Friday, adding that he was recovering quickly but must follow the advice of his doctors at all times.
Chavez, who has continued to carry out his duties as president from Havana, gave instructions to his ministers on Friday and thanked his supporters for their well wishes.
The 57-year-old president had a larger, cancerous tumor removed from his pelvic region last year on the Communist-ruled island, the precise nature of which has never been revealed. He underwent several rounds of chemotherapy after the initial surgery before announcing in October that he was cancer-free.
News of the new medical problem has roiled the campaign for Venezuela’s October presidential election, in which Chavez - who took office in 1999 - will face Henrique Capriles, a former state governor backed by a broad coalition of opposition parties.
Spanish dailies Publico and El Pais published on Tuesday a document from a U.S. private intelligence firm asserting that the Venezuelan president is mortally ill.
The document is part of a trove of millions of e-mails from the Texas-based Stratfor company that was obtained by WikiLeaks.
In a Dec. 5, 2011, e-mail sent to Stratfor CEO George Friedman, the firm’s director of analysis, Reva Bhalla, cites a “well-connected VZ (Venezuelan) source working with Israel” who describes disagreements between the Cuban and Russian doctors treating Chavez.
“The Russian team blamed the Cubans for an improper surgery the first time in trying to remove the tumor” and said Cuba lacks the “right imagery treatment to properly treat Chavez,” the source told Bhalla.
“The second surgery over the summer was basically the Russian team trying to clean up the Cuban team’s mistakes,” according to the source.
While the Cuban doctors think Chavez has two years to live, the Russian diagnosis, “due to improper medical equipment, is less than one year,” the unnamed source said.
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