Chavez shown in photosVenezuelan President Hugo Chavez with his daughters Rosa and Maria. (AP Photo)
Fri, February 15, 2013 - 2:06 PM
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuela's government showed the first photos of ailing President Hugo Chavez in more than two months on Friday, presenting images of him smiling alongside his daughters while also acknowledging that he is in a "delicate" state fighting cancer.
Chavez is propped up on what appears to be a bed in the photos, a blue pillow behind his head. His face appears puffy, but he is smiling broadly, while his daughters Rosa and Maria lean in close to him.
In other images, Chavez is shown looking at Thursday's issue of the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma, his daughters still flanking him. The photos were shown on television by Chavez's son-in-law, Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza.
The government released the images amid widespread speculation and rumors in Venezuela about Chavez's condition following his Dec. 11 cancer surgery. Chavez hasn't been seen or directly heard from since he left for Cuba on Dec. 10, in contrast to previous stays for medical treatment in Havana.
The photos were shown on state television after Information Minister Ernesto Villegas released new details about Chavez's condition, including that he is breathing through a tracheal tube that makes it difficult for him to speak.
"After two months of a complicated post-operative process, the patient remains conscious, with his intellectual functions intact, in close communication with his government team," Villegas said, reading from a statement on television.
Villegas reiterated that Chavez has overcome a respiratory infection that arose after the surgery, "although a certain grade of (breathing) insufficiency persists."
"Given that circumstance, which is being duly treated, Comandante Chavez is currently breathing through a tracheal cannula, which temporarily hinders speech," Villegas said.
Government opponents have been demanding more information about Chavez's condition, and have been asking why he hasn't spoken to the nation to explain his condition.
Villegas also said that Chavez's doctors are "applying vigorous treatment for his fundamental illness," an apparent reference to cancer. He said that treatment "isn't free of complications."
Villegas said the Venezuelan government thanks Cuban leaders Raul and Fidel Castro "for the love and the care shown to our president." He urged Venezuelans to keep praying for Chavez, and also expressed hope.
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