Jokes and laughs with Chavez in Cuba, ally says

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 21, 2013 at 9:29 pm •  Published: January 21, 2013
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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's top diplomat said Monday that he shared jokes and laughed together with President Hugo Chavez during a meeting in Cuba, where the socialist leader has been recovering after cancer surgery.

Foreign Minister Elias Jaua spoke about the meeting in messages on his Twitter account, providing an upbeat account nearly six weeks after an operation that pushed the president out of public view.

In an initial message, Jaua said: "Coming out of the meeting with our President Comandante Hugo Chavez. We shared jokes and laughed."

"He asked me to pass on, to the people and the Armed Force, his thanks for so much loyalty," Jaua said in another message, using the formal name for Venezuela's military.

Jaua also said that Chavez made decisions "about our participation" in an upcoming summit meeting in Chile, and was "very happy because the Bolivarian dream continues advancing" — a reference to 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar, the namesake of Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution movement.

Jaua met earlier with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez. He didn't give details about Chavez's condition, but his description was the latest of multiple accounts by government officials that have pointed to an improvement after complications that included a severe respiratory infection.

Argenis Chavez, one of the president's five brothers and the president of the National Electric Corporation, said in a government statement on Monday night: "We're all eager for his return."

He earlier had told The Associated Press that he expected the president's return in the "coming days." But in the statement he said that was incorrect and that those in charge of providing official updates on Chavez's health are Vice President Nicolas Maduro and Information Minister Ernesto Villegas.

"The decision about the head of state's return to the country is in the hands of the medical team that is accompanying him," Argenis Chavez said in the statement.

The president hasn't been seen or spoken publicly since he left for Cuba on Dec. 10 for his fourth cancer-related operation.

The president's younger brother said he recently saw and talked with Chavez in Havana, though he didn't specify when or say how the president looked. He said that Chavez remained in Cuba accompanied by his children.

Jorge Arreaza, the president's son-in-law and science minister, returned to Venezuela after spending recent weeks in Cuba, where he had at times provided information on Twitter about the president and those who came to visit him.

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