Hugo Chavez's recent public absence has given rise to questions from political opponents about who is running the country.

Story highlights

Official says Chavez is handling more duties

Chavez, 58, has not been seen in public for weeks, not since his last cancer surgery

The official is one of many saying Chavez is getting better

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was gradually recovering and handling more presidential duties, a government official said Tuesday.

“He’s constantly thinking, making decisions, in meetings he’s been giving out orders,” the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Jorge Arreaza, said on Venezuela state TV.

Chavez, 58, has not made a public appearance since undergoing a fourth cancer surgery in Havana six weeks ago.

The government has not released any photographs of the ailing leader, and Chavez hasn’t spoken on state television.

The long absence from the airwaves is not typical of the loquacious leader. And his lengthy stay in Cuba has sparked growing concerns from political opponents about who is running Venezuela while he’s gone.

Chavez: Survivor and Venezuela’s long-serving president

Arreaza’s statement follows a chorus of other government officials who have made announcements recently about the improving state of the longtime president’s health.

Last week Information Minister Ernesto Villegas stressed that Chavez was still very much in charge of the country, meeting with leaders and making key decisions.

That same sentiment was expressed the same day by Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who recently returned from visiting Chavez in Cuba.

“(He) is in the best moment that we’ve seen him in all these days of struggle,” Maduro said.