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Venezuelan VP says Chavez is making progress

| Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, 9:50 p.m.

CARACAS — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will begin a new round of treatment after he completes the recovery phase of last month's operation for cancer, the country's vice president said on Sunday.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro said he saw Chavez last Monday in Havana, where the president is being treated in a closely guarded Cuban government hospital.

Maduro said he saw Chavez with a group of government officials, including Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello and Chavez's older brother, Adnan.

“We entered (the room) together, and I gripped his hand, greeting him and I told him, ‘Don't worry, president,' ” Maduro said.

Maduro said Chavez, 58, expressed his gratitude to the Venezuelan people during the meeting. Maduro said Chavez looked better and had a “special brilliance” to his demeanor.

Chavez left for Cuba on Dec. 11 and hasn't been seen publicly since, stoking rumors that the president is fighting for his life, is in a coma or unable to breathe on his own.

The lack of information about the president's health, including photos or videos, has led the country's opposition to demand that an independent commission of doctors be empaneled to review the president's health to make sure he is able to perform his duties.

Those requests have been rejected by Maduro.

“We have always told the people the truth about the president's health,” said Maduro, adding the opposition was to blame for spreading rumors about Chavez's death or imminent demise in an attempt to destabilize the country.

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