Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is in Cuba after a new round of cancer surgery, is sound of mind and his physical health is improving, his science and technology minister said Saturday.
Chavez, 58, "is mentally fully fit" and his health "is improving" after his surgery Tuesday in Cuba following a recurrence of cancer, said Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza said from Havana by phone.
His health is in a "process of progressive stabilization," added Arreaza, who also is the president's son in law, the husband of Chavez's eldest daughter Rosa Virginia who has been at the president's side in Havana.
Chavez, who was re-elected to a third term in October, announced to the nation a week ago that he had suffered a recurrence of the cancer he thought he had beaten, and would have to return to Cuba for surgery.
The revelation marked his third brush in the past year and a half with the disease, each time requiring extended stays in Cuba.
Aides this week said Chavez experienced "complications" from this most recent surgery, including bleeding that now appears to be under control.
Chavez is scheduled to be inaugurated to a third presidential term January 10, but the country now is on tenterhooks to see if the outspoken, formerly tireless leader will remain their president, become incapacitated or worse.
He has named foreign minister and vice president Nicolas Maduro as both his temporary replacement and hand-picked successor.
The latest turn in Chavez's 18-month-long health saga comes less than a month before he was to be sworn in to another six-year term, and just days before Sunday's regional elections, which are seen as a key political test.
Until last week, he appeared to have banked on making a full recovery, despite recurring rounds of debilitating radiation treatment and chemotherapy since he was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011.
Chavez claimed a year later that he was cancer free before embarking on his successful but arduous re-election campaign.
Venezuela has never clearly stated what type of cancer Chavez has nor what organs are affected, but doctors said they removed a grapefruit-sized tumour from his pelvis last year.
State television has also been broadcasting spots praising Chavez's accomplishments, as well as pro-government documentaries.
The state governor whom Chavez defeated in the October presidential election, Henrique Capriles, accused the government of using the president's illness to rally sympathy votes in Sunday's regional elections.
Chavez's PSUV party is hoping to sweep the regional polls to choose 23 governors.