SANTIAGO (AFP) - President Hugo Chavez has beaten a severe respiratory infection that occurred after his latest cancer surgery in Cuba, Venezuelan Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas said Saturday in Santiago.
"The respiratory infection has been overcome, although there still is some degree of breathing difficulty that is being treated appropriately," he said on the sidelines of a regional summit with European Union leaders in the Chilean capital.
Mr Chavez, who had surgery on Dec 11, has not been seen in public since he left Caracas for surgery at a hospital in communist Cuba.
Throughout his illness, first detected in June 2011, Mr Chavez has refused to relinquish the powers of the presidency, even when leaving for Havana.
The 58-year-old former paratrooper was too sick to attend his Jan 10 inauguration, prompting the government to delay the swearing-in indefinitely under an interpretation of the constitution that was heavily criticised.
Mr Chavez first came to power in his oil-rich South American country in 1999 and won another six-year term in October, despite questions about his health.
The Chavez-controlled National Assembly and Supreme Court both approved the arrangement, which keeps his administration in place under Vice-President Nicolas Maduro until the president can take the oath of office.