Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made his first media appearance since his May 11 return from Cuba after finishing his radiation therapy sessions, and he looked lively and was walking around, although he only appeared in public briefly and did not take any questions from reporters.
A month-and-a-half after presiding at his latest public event, the president on Saturday let himself be seen by the press at a meeting with the Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko at the Miraflores presidential palace.
The 57-year-old Chavez walked without apparent difficulty alongside Semashko and displayed his good humor by - for example - playing with some binoculars he had been given and joking about how close the journalists who were present looked through them.
"Thanks for this gift, this is going to be very good for the campaign," he joked while looking through the fieldglasses, referring to his ongoing reelection campaign prior to the Oct. 7 national election.
The last time Chavez appeared in public was on April 13, when from the Balcony of the People he commemorated the failed coup that briefly removed him from power in April 2002 and when he announced that he would not be going to the Summit of the Americas in Colombia so that he could continue with his radiation therapy treatment in Havana.
Since his return from the island, he had only been seen heading two ministerial councils, although he has been heard publicly on several telephone calls with the state-run television station.
At the public event on the weekend, which Miraflores staff said was a "last-minute" decision, only members of the state-run media and international press were present and they were not given a chance to ask Chavez any questions or have access to the meeting with the foreign official, something that had become a regular occurrence.
Last week, U.S. journalist Dan Rather reported that Chavez's cancer was in the "end stage" and it was "doubtful" he would live to see the results of the Oct. 7 elections.
According to Rather, who cited "a highly respected source close to Chavez who is in a position to know his medical condition and history," the leftist head of state has metastatic rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer that has "entered the end stage."
"This source says the prognosis is dire and that Chavez is now not expected to live 'more than a couple of months at most,'" the 80-year-old journalist wrote in an article posted on the Web site for his Dan Rather Reports program, which airs on HDNet. EFE