SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) —
Venezuela's government says President Hugo Chavez has begun additional treatment after surviving complications from cancer surgery in Cuba more than six weeks ago.
Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said on the sidelines of a summit meeting in Chile that when Chavez underwent surgery on Dec. 11, a "malignant lesion" with severe complications was removed from the pelvis.
Villegas said that Chavez has overcome a severe respiratory infection that set in after the surgery, although he still has "a certain degree of respiratory insufficiency" and is being treated for that.
Villegas said for the first time that doctors have begun to apply, in his words, "systemic medical treatment" for his illness. He didn't give details.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's condition has improved and he is now optimistic as he faces more treatment following cancer surgery, his vice president said Saturday.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro said after meeting with Chavez in Cuba that the ailing president is now "in the best moment we've seen him in these days of struggle" following his Dec. 11 cancer surgery. Chavez hasn't appeared or spoken publicly since before the operation, and his government has said he suffered complications including a severe respiratory infection but has recently been improving.
Maduro spoke on state television early Saturday after returning from Havana to Venezuela. He said he was leaving shortly for a summit meeting in Chile with a written message from Chavez.
"We're taking a message prepared by the president, and we're going to turn it over to heads of state who attend the CELAC summit. He makes fundamental proposals," Maduro said, adding that the message was in Chavez's handwriting.
Maduro said Chavez also sent a message for Venezuelans, including that he was "very optimistic" about his treatment. Maduro said Chavez is "hanging on to Christ and to life."
Maduro said Chavez also urged his supporters in Venezuela to be alert about opponents seeking to do harm to his socialist-oriented "revolution." However, Maduro didn't elaborate.
The vice president, whom Chavez designated as his successor before the operation, spoke on television surrounded by officials including Defense Minister Diego Molero and Information Minister Ernesto Villegas. Maduro said Villegas would give a more detailed update on Chavez's health later Saturday.
Chavez has undergone repeated surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatment for an unspecified type of pelvic cancer. He has undergone much of his treatment in Cuba.
The 58-year-old president won re-election in October, and lawmakers indefinitely put off his inauguration earlier this month in a decision that was condemned by opponents but upheld by the Supreme Court.
The vice president said that Chavez "has reviewed and evaluated reports on different areas and has made decisions."
He said Chavez evaluated the country's economic situation and budget and made decisions about gold reserves, funding for public housing projects and "social investments and economic development." Maduro didn't give more details but said the actions approved by the president were intended to "guarantee the country's economic growth, infrastructure, housing."
Maduro said that one of the documents signed by Chavez dealt with the selection of his socialist party's candidates for mayoral elections later this year. The vice president showed the signature in red ink on one of the documents.