TELESUR, ULTIMAS NOTICIAS, EL NACIONAL (Venezuela), BBC (UK)
CARACAS - Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro has told Latin American TV network teleSUR that he had visited President Chavez twice in the past days and that he had shown “gigantic force” as they spoke of political issues.
Chavez is currently in Havana, Cuba, where he underwent his fourth cancer-related surgery on Dec. 11. It was reported that he suffered complications from the surgery.
In his interview with teleSUR, Maduro called on Venezuelans to “immunize themselves from the rumors and lies being circulated on social networks and opposition media.” Those who are spreading the rumors about Chavez" demise, he said, are “the enemies of Venezuela, the right-wing journalists,” who are “mentally ill, hateful and have no boundaries or respect for families, for the people.”
“I saw the President, he greeted me and squeezed my hand with gigantic force as we talked,” said Maduro. “The commander is fully aware of the complexity of his situation and has asked me to report the truth to the people, which I have done and will continue to do.” (*see below for correction)
According to El Nacional, dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez was among those tweeting about the rumors circulating in Havana. “The rumors are growing in Havana concerning the status of Hugo Chavez’ health. Even though we are used to the secrets, we are not idiots,” she tweeted.
— Yoani Sánchez (@yoanisanchez) January 1, 2013
After spending four days in Havana, the Vice President returned to Venezuela on Wednesday, reported Ultima Noticias, to take back the reigns of the government, which Chavez handed him on Dec. 8, before his departure for Cuba.
It is not known whether Chavez would be able to be inaugurated for another term as planned on Jan. 10, but Venezuelan National Assembly leader Diosdado Cabello has recently said that the inauguration ceremony would be delayed if Chavez wasn't well enough to make it.
But, according to the BBC, the opposition says such a move would be unconstitutional: "The Venezuelan constitution states that a new election should be called in 30 days should the president not be fit enough to attend his inauguration."
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*An earlier version of this article and the headline incorrectly referred to Maduro's characterization of Chavez as being aware of the "gravity" of his condition. He used the word "complexity."