CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's government says it will postpone a summit of Latin American leaders due to President Hugo Chavez's health as he is recovering from surgery in Cuba.
The Foreign Ministry says in a statement read Wednesday on state television that "the president is in the middle of a recuperation process and very strict medical treatment." As a result, it says the government has decided to postpone the two-day summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders that had been scheduled to begin July 5.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Hugo Chavez appeared lucid and talkative as usual as he chatted with Fidel Castro in new videos aired Wednesday, breaking a long silence following surgery that has prompted speculation about the Venezuelan president's health.
Footage from Tuesday's encounter in Cuba showed the two in a garden chatting amiably about old times and discussing a Cuban newspaper article about school uniforms. It then cut to them seated indoors having an animated conversation.
"Today's newspaper, today's front page," Chavez said, reading the headlines in the Venezuelan state newspaper El Correo del Orinoco.
They talked about socialism and laughed as Chavez recalled a visit by Castro to Venezuela years ago when they ventured down a jungle path through vines.
Chavez has been largely out of sight since the government announced June 10 that he had undergone pelvic surgery. He spoke once in a telephone call to state television two days after the operation, and appeared in photographs alongside both Fidel and Raul Castro that were published June 18.
A series of photos and short video clips were shown on Cuban and Venezuelan television on Tuesday, but the footage shown Wednesday was longer and included audio of their conversation.
Vice President Elias Jaua told state television that the latest images show that the 56-year-old Chavez is clearly getting better.
"The president is in the process of recuperating, and he has a right to recuperate," Jaua said. "He has the right to take the time necessary to recuperate."
He said Chavez was on top of his duties and working on military and other issues on Wednesday.
He did not provide other details about Chavez's health, nor say when he was expected to return home.
Venezuelan and Cuban state television both aired the footage, which lasted about 20 minutes. It began with Chavez arriving and greeting Castro with a salute and the slogan, "Fatherland or death, we will be victorious!"
The two stood in what appeared to be an outdoor garden with palm trees in the background, surrounded by attendants. Castro wore a blue track suit jacket and a red cap of Cuba's national baseball team, and Chavez had on a warm-up jacket in the colors of the Venezuelan flag.
They both read aloud from the front pages of official newspapers Granma and Juventud Rebelde, and discussed current events and moments in Latin American history such as the 1973 coup in Chile.
Chavez also reminisced about his days as an army paratrooper and recalled a conversation with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega about that country's history.
After a cut, the two were seen walking and then indoors chatting with Chavez's daughters and a granddaughter, who also read from Granma.
Chavez has said the surgery removed a pelvic abscess, yet a lack of details about his condition has fed speculation in Venezuela that the president might be seriously ill.
Some of Chavez's political opponents were not convinced Chavez looked healthy in the latest videos, and said he appeared thinner than usual.
Jaua has led government events in Chavez's absence and the leftist president's elder brother, Adan, rallied supporters at a Sunday prayer meeting for Chavez's health.
Adan Chavez also said a week ago that his brother was expected to leave Cuba within 10 to 12 days, though he also said an exact date was uncertain.
Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, a Chavez ally, said he expected Venezuelan leader would return home in time for Venezuela's independence anniversary on July 5.
Speaking on a television program in Uruguay on Tuesday night, Mujica joked that "Fidel Castro kidnapped Chavez to ensure his recovery."
"Chavez is very temperamental," Mujica said. "They operated on him and he needs about 20-something days of recovery. Fidel practically kidnapped him, didn't let him go, because he didn't trust that in Venezuela (Chavez) would pay attention to the treatments."
Mujica didn't say whether he had spoken with Venezuelan or Cuban officials about Chavez's condition.
Associated Press writers Peter Orsi in Havana, Fabiola Sanchez in Caracas, and Raul O. Garces in Montevideo, Uruguay, contributed to this report.
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