CARACAS, VENEZUELA (TIP): Somber confidants of President Hugo Chavez say he is going through a difficult recovery after cancer surgery in Cuba, and one close ally is warning Venezuelans that their leader may not make it back for his swearing-in next month. Information minister Ernesto Villegas said on Dec 12 that Chavez was in “stable condition” and was with close relatives in Havana. Reading a statement, he said the government invites people to “accompany President Chavez in this new test with their prayers” . Villegas expressed hope about the president returning home for his Janurary 10 swearing-in for a new sixyear term, but said in a written message on a government website that if Chavez doesn’t make it, “our people should be prepared to understand it” .
He said it would be irresponsible to hide news about the “delicateness of the current moment and the days to come.” He asked Venezuelans to see Chavez’s condition as “when we have a sick father, in a delicate situation after four surgeries in a year and a half.” Moving to prepare the public for the possibility of more bad news, Vice President Nicolas Maduro looked grim when he acknowledged that Chavez faced a “complex and hard” process after his latest surgery. At the same time, officials sought to show a united front amid the growing worries about Chavez’s health and Venezuela’s future. Key leaders of Chavez’s party and military officers appeared together on television as Maduro gave updates on Chavez’s condition.