Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who remains in Cuba recovering from his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months, had his vice president deliver a year-end message to the Andean nation's military on Friday.
"I raise my voice to transmit to the comrades of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces the renewed and fraternal testimonial of respect, admiration, gratitude and affection of the heroic people of Simon Bolivar," Nicolas Maduro said at a ceremony in the eastern city of Barcelona, reading from the president's missive.
"Here ... in revolutionary Cuba, I feel full of faith in Christ the Redeemer, in his infinite mercy," Chavez wrote. "Full of faith in the love of our people who heal me with their prayers and blessings every day, full of faith in the commitment and the loyalty that the revolutionary armed forces are showing me in this so complex and difficult time."
The 58-year-old former paratrooper also hailed what he described as the military's leading role "in the collective construction of an ever more just society, a society in transition toward socialism."
Maduro, accompanied in Barcelona by the entire Cabinet, reminded the Venezuelan armed forces of their "responsibility to ensure the peace and sovereignty of this sacred land."
Chavez, who took office in 1999, was re-elected in October for another six-year term.
He was first diagnosed with cancer after complaining of pain in his pelvic region during a June 2011 official visit to Cuba. Since then, the former paratrooper has undergone four surgical procedures and courses of chemotherapy and radiation.
Venezuela's opposition said Wednesday the official reports on Chavez's condition are ambiguous and demanded the appointment of a board of physicians to certify that the president is fit to begin a new mandate. EFE