Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro said that his country's head of state, Hugo Chavez, who is recovering in Cuba from an operation he underwent in December, has entered into "a new phase of treatment" and that the postoperative phase "is finished."

"We've gone through some complex moments, but fortunately the postoperative cycle is finished and the president has entered into a new phase of treatment for his illness and is gradually recovering, gaining strength," Maduro said Friday at a government event in Caracas aired on state channel VTV.

The vice president said that at the moment the president is meeting in Havana with the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Diego Molero, who brought him "greetings" from the Venezuelan armed forces.

"In a few hours we'll have more news because they have a number of subjects to consult him about," Maduro said, adding that government officials are "permanently" updating him and asking him what to do and how to do it.

"What is unfailing about the president is his spirit, his vibrant will to be among us, a vast will to live, his smile, the glow of his face, the sparkle in his eyes, his message of good counsel," he said.

Venezuelan Communication Minister Ernesto Villegas said last Saturday that the president's general progress is favorable following the "complex" Dec. 11 operation in Havana and that his respiratory infection has apparently been cured.

Nonetheless, Villegas said that "a certain degree of respiratory failure persists that is being duly treated."

Chavez, 58, was operated in Cuba for the fourth time in the past 19 months for a cancer known to be in the pelvic region but whose exact nature has never been divulged. EFE