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Details scarce on Chavez's condition after surgery

By the CNN Wire Staff
President Hugo Chavez, right, raises a crutch after his weekly program 'Alo Presidente', in Caracas, on May 22, 2011.
President Hugo Chavez, right, raises a crutch after his weekly program 'Alo Presidente', in Caracas, on May 22, 2011.
  • Most reports sum up Hugo Chavez's medical condition in a few words
  • Official accounts repeatedly say Venezuelan leader is "recuperating satisfactorily"
  • Chavez has not updated his Twitter page or appeared on live television
  • His absence from Venezuela has sparked debate and speculation

Caracas, Venezuela (CNN) -- More than 11 days after doctors in Cuba performed emergency surgery on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the official information released about his condition could fit on one side of an index card.

State-run VTV reported Wednesday that Chavez was "recuperating satisfactorily" in Cuba and could be discharged from the hospital in 10 days, citing an interview with his brother.

Word has trickled out in statements from Venezuela's information ministry, government Twitter posts and state media since officials announced Chavez's June 10 surgery to treat a pelvic abscess.

But most reports sum up the situation in a few words, leaving critics and even supporters wondering when Chavez will return to the South American country -- and who's in charge while he's away.

"President Chavez is recuperating satisfactorily, meeting the medical milestones and maintaining close coordination with the vice president and other Venezuelan ministers about the main affairs of the country," a Saturday statement from the information ministry said.

In a telephone interview June 12, Chavez told Telesur his operation had been "very successful."

Chavez has been seen in photos -- pictures of him posing with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Cuban President Raul Castro were published in state media -- but his normally frequent live television appearances have been absent from Venezuelan airwaves.

"Unfortunately, there is a policy of silence and that is unfortunate for the country...because what it creates is uncertainty, and uncertainty in the end creates rumors," said Hernan Lugo-Galicia, secretary-general of the National College of Journalists.

Conflicting information on Chavez has come from all sides.

Local media reported comments from a lawmaker from Chavez's United Socialist Part of Venezuela Monday, saying the president could return to Venezuela in a matter of hours. The country's information minister responded in a Twitter post, saying that claim was false and Chavez was "still in recuperation."

The normally talkative Chavez had been notably silent on his Twitter account; the last post appeared June 4.

"The truth is the president is outside of Venezuela. He is not governing in Venezuela. So who is governing in Venezuela?" said Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, an outspoken Chavez critic.

Official government statements have announced a number of decisions from Chavez during his absence, including an order to crack down on prison corruption and a declaration of three days of national mourning after the death of the nation's comptroller.

Lawmakers in Chavez's party have supported his decision to govern from Havana.

"The president of the republic does not lose his post even if he's on the moon," Rep. Iris Varela said during a debate on the issue.

But the former chief justice of Venezuela's Supreme Court questioned that assertion.

"Even though officials from his party and the national assembly insist that he is the president and he rules from any part of the world, constitutionally he is in a temporary absence and this temporary absence has to be supplemented by the vice president," Cecilia Sosa Gomez said.

In his Wednesday interview with VTV, Adan Chavez, the president's brother and the governor of Venezuela's Barinas state, said he could "give faith about the president's health." He told the state-run network that he had delivered papers on behalf of Venezuela's vice president when he visited his brother in Havana, but he did not offer further details about his condition.

"We don't know exactly when he will return. We have to wait for the doctors' evaluation. But In a few days, 10 days, 12 days, the president will be here," he said.

"I'm very happy to have the opportunity to, above all, put an end to the wave of rumors and speculation," he added.

Journalist Osmary Hernandez contributed to this report.