Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is making progress in his recovery from cancer surgery, but faces a tough battle ahead, foreign minister Elias Jaua said Thursday.
"The president is in the process of recovering. However, the upcoming battle is more complex," Jaua said upon his return from Cuba, where he was visiting the ailing 58-year-old Chavez.
The firebrand leftist leader has not been seen for more than a month since undergoing his latest cancer surgery in Havana. Government officials have repeatedly said in recent days that his condition is improving.
Jaua said he had seen Chavez "several times" this week, including once earlier Thursday. Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez and Chavez's brother Adan were also in Havana.
"We discussed a series of political and economic issues, as well as the upcoming mayoral elections," Jaua told reporters by telephone during a press conference given by Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas.
Villegas said the government was pleased with Chavez's progress, adding it was still too soon to talk about when the president might return home.
But he insisted Chavez was "making decisions," noting: "He is active... I have received instructions on certain tasks that need doing."
Jaua said the government hoped Chavez could be back home in a matter of "weeks" but also said everyone wanted the president to take his time to recover.
Chavez, who had surgery on December 11, was too sick to attend his January 10 inauguration, prompting the government to delay the swearing-in indefinitely under an interpretation of the constitution criticized by the opposition.
The Chavez-controlled National Assembly and Supreme Court both approved the arrangement, which keeps his administration in place under Maduro until Chavez can take the oath of office for his fourth term.