Has Hugo Chavez bounced back?

The Venezuelan government says the president, who underwent surgery last month to remove a cancerous tumor, seems to be recovering rapidly. 

During a telephone conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday, Chavez remarked on his health  as he was exercising outdoors, said the Foreign Ministry in a statement.

Chavez told the Russian leader "that he has experienced a rapid recovery from the complex operation," the Foreign Ministry said, adding that the president has been undergoing a first phase of rehabilitation.

It said that "has generated an optimal scenario" as he starts a second phase of recuperation, adding that Chavez now has a "feeling of realistic optimism."

Chavez has said he underwent surgery in Cuba on June 20 to remove a tumor from his pelvic region. Chavez hasn't said what type of cancer is involved.

Since his return to Caracas on July 4, the 56-year-old president has slowed his normally heavy agenda and has limited the length of his televised speeches, saying he is under strict orders from his doctors.

Medvedev wished Chavez a speedy recovery and told him he could count on Russia's help if needed, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said. It said Medvedev told him that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plans to visit Caracas on Aug. 22-23, and that he hopes to host Chavez in Moscow soon.

Chavez's upbeat remarks follow other optimistic assessments by his allies.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, who visited the Venezuelan leader last week, told Colombian radio station Caracol on Sunday that Chavez "has survived the bad moment, the worst."

Another ally, former Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel, said in an interview with the Colombian magazine Semana that "for the moment he's not going to need chemo."

Based on reporting by the Associated Press

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