Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro said Sunday that President Hugo Chávez, who is recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba, is coming out of the postoperative period and "is going to enter a new phase of treatment that is in the process of evaluation" after going through a "difficult" period.

Maduro said that Chávez is conscious and "continues stabilizing in every way, the functioning of his organs, in all his fundamental qualities."

"Sooner than later we're going to have the president here with us," said Maduro during the interview he gave to journalist and former Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel on the private Televen network.

He said that the first postoperative phase was "complicated" and "difficult," and that the public was informed about it at the proper time.

Maduro said that Chávez is "focused on his treatment, (and) following (his doctors' advice) in a disciplined manner."

He said the last time he had seen Chávez was on Jan. 14 when he went to Havana along with Petroleum and Mining Minister Rafael Ramírez, Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza, Barinas state Gov. Adan Chávez (who is the president's brother), National Assembly chief Diosdado Cabello and Attorney General Cilia Flores.

At the time, Chávez  who he said displayed his customary good spirits and energy - asked him to "Relay my thanks to the entire people, to the armed forces" for their support, Maduro added.

Chávez has been hospitalized in Cuba since he underwent another operation on Dec. 11 to deal with his recurring cancer, which was diagnosed in mid-2011. 

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