Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is recovering from his Dec. 11 operation to remove a tumor, but is still fighting "the more difficult battle" against cancer, one of his top aides said.
"We can say of the post-operative situation, the president is well into the process of recovery," Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said from Havana, where he and other senior officials have been conferring with Chavez.
"However, well, now comes the more difficult and deeper battle against the illness," Jaua said via telephone link during a press conference in Caracas called by Communication Minister Ernesto Villegas.
The foreign minister was joined in Havana on Wednesday by Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro and the energy minister of the oil-rich Andean nation, Rafael Ramirez.
Those officials have made multiple trips to Cuba since the socialist president's Dec. 11 surgery, as have Attorney General Cilia Flores and the head of state's brother, state Gov. Adan Chavez.
The 58-year-old Chavez, who took office in 1999, was re-elected last Oct. 7 by a comfortable margin and is supposed to serve until 2019.
He has undergone four operations and courses of chemotherapy and radiation since he was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011.
Venezuela's Supreme Court said earlier this month that Chavez could delay his inauguration - set for Jan. 10 - without creating a constitutional power vacuum.
Responding to opposition complaints about a lack of direct communication from the normally garrulous Chavez, Communication Minister Villegas said the president has delegated that task to his administration while he concentrates on his recovery.
Villegas said that though he hopes the president will return to Venezuela in a matter of weeks, the government doesn't want to "plant expectations." EFE