CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez is recovering favorably despite suffering complications during cancer surgery in Cuba, his vice president said Thursday amid uncertainty over the Venezuelan leader's health crisis and the country's political future.
A day after officials painted a grim picture of Chavez's health, Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced at a political rally that his condition "has evolved from stable to favorable, which supports maintaining the diagnosis of an increasing recuperation."
In the latest of a series of reports about the president's delicate condition, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said Chavez was making a "progressive and favorable" recovery after suffering bleeding from Tuesday's surgery.
"This recovery process, nevertheless, will require a prudent period of time as a consequence of the complexity of the surgery performed," Villegas said.
Dr. Julian Molina, a cancer expert from the Mayo Clinic in the United States, said bleeding is not uncommon when doctors operate in the same place multiple times to remove cancerous tissue, as is the case with Chavez.
The government has been providing regular updates on the president's recovery following six hours of surgery in a slight easing of the secrecy that has surrounded Chavez's medical treatment since he fell ill last year. No clinical details have been provided, however.
The latest bulletin about Chavez's health came as supporters prayed for him at church services and as Venezuelans increasingly acknowledged the potential for political turmoil ahead if the leftist leader is unable be sworn in for his fourth term early next year — a possibility raised by his government.
One-man rule has been the glue that has held together Chavez's socialist movement, and he hadn't groomed any clear successor until he announced over the weekend that if cancer cuts short his presidency he wants Maduro to take over.
Some Venezuelans believe power struggles may already be brewing within the president's "Chavismo" movement, which includes groups from radical leftists to moderates. Maduro heads a civilian-political wing that is closely aligned with Cuba's communist government. National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, a Chavez confederate in the failed 1992 coup that brought him fame, is thought to wield power within the military.
"In politics, everything is possible," said Gustavo Chourio, a bookseller in downtown Caracas. "Maduro doesn't have influence with those in the military. Diosdado has the influence."
Chavez was re-elected to another six-year term in October. His allies have expressed hope about the president returning home for his Jan. 10 inauguration, but on Wednesday Villegas acknowledged in a written message on a government website that it's possible the president might not be well enough to return in time.
It remains unclear where the bleeding occurred or how severe the complications were. Still secret are numerous details about the cancer in the president's pelvic area, including the type and location of the tumors that have been removed.
Throughout Chavez's nearly 14-year government, egos and dogma have clashed in his inner circle but his allies have always deferred to and parroted him. Chourio said he believes the president's movement has grown so strong that it will persist without him. But he predicted Maduro and Cabello will have a reckoning.
"Those two will have to work it out to guarantee the country's stability," said Chourio, a longtime Chavez supporter.
Some analysts consider a struggle for control inevitable.
"What's likely to happen is a power struggle between Maduro and Cabello," said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington. "It is almost certain that an intense power struggle is already under way within Chavismo."
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