CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez is in full control of his mental faculties and has been talking with his children and getting daily visits from Fidel Castro while recovering slowly from cancer surgery in Cuba, his son-in-law said Saturday.
Chavez has been recovering favorably despite some "moments of tension" after Tuesday's surgery and is now in a "process of stabilization," Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza said on Venezuelan television in a phone call from Havana.
It's unclear when Chavez might be well enough to return home, but Information Minister Ernesto Villegas expressed hope it could be soon. Chavez, who was re-elected in October, is due to be sworn in for another six-year term on Jan. 10.
"We're extremely hopeful that the president may be with us very soon. But it would also be irresponsible on my part to speak of dates," Villegas told The Associated Press.
"We're confident that President Chavez will be here to take office on Jan. 10. Now, in the event that weren't possible, our people would have to be prepared to understand it," Villegas said.
He spoke during a ceremony in downtown Caracas attended by Vice President Nicolas Maduro and other government officials as well as visiting leaders from other countries.
Arreaza's phone call became the centerpiece of the televised ceremony, and he said Castro has come to see Chavez every day since the surgery.
"He always stops by to personally find out about El Comandante's health condition and also to share his knowledge with all of us, and to give the family courage and encouragement," said Arreaza, who is the husband of Chavez's eldest daughter, Rosa.
Chavez has long shared a close friendship with the former Cuban president, describing him as being like a father and mentor.
The 58-year-old Venezuelan leader underwent his fourth cancer-related operation in Cuba after tests found the illness had come back despite previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He previously had said in July that tests showed he was cancer-free.
Throughout his treatments in Cuba, Chavez has kept secret some details about his pelvic cancer, including the exact location and type of tumors removed.
Venezuela's government has said Chavez suffered complications during a complicated six-hour surgery but has since been recovering progressively.
Arreaza said there had been "moments of tension, above all on (December) 11 and 12, but we've overcome them one by one."