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Aides Say Venezuelan Leader Faces Tough Recovery

  • VOA News

Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro (C), flanked by cabinet members, makes a statement about the health condition of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez during a news conference in Caracas, December 12, 2012.

Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro (C), flanked by cabinet members, makes a statement about the health condition of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez during a news conference in Caracas, December 12, 2012.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's closest allies are expressing doubts the ailing leader will return home in time for next month's swearing-in ceremony, adding to growing fears over the president's health.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas announced late Wednesday that Chavez was in stable condition in Havana, Cuba, a day after the president underwent cancer surgery. But earlier in the day, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Chavez is facing a "complex" and difficult recovery from the six-hour procedure.

Millions of Venezuelans held prayer vigils across the country on Wednesday for Chavez. Maduro and other government officials attended a Mass for the president at a military base.

Tuesday's surgery was the fourth for Chavez since he was initially diagnosed with cancer in mid-2011. The 58-year-old socialist leader was overwhelmingly re-elected to a new six-year term in October, after assuring Venezuelans that he was cancer-free during his re-election campaign.

Chavez named Maduro as his chosen successor before flying to Havana for the surgery. Under the country's constitution, if the president dies or is declared incapacitated, a new presidential election must be held within 30 days.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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