Chavez is ‘in battle’ but improving: Venezuelan VP

Maduro said they provided him with an update on "the government in a new stage" and other matters.

Caracas: Venezuela`s vice president on Wednesday said President Hugo Chavez has been making progress in his treatment for a severe respiratory infection and asked questions of his aides during a recent visit to Cuba, where the president is recovering.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on television that he and other officials including Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez met with Chavez yesterday.

Maduro said they provided him with an update on "the government in a new stage" and other matters.

Maduro expressed gratitude to Chavez`s medical team but didn`t give details, only saying that Chavez "is in battle."

"He asked our friend Rafael Ramirez about (certain) aspects" of the government, Maduro said in a televised meeting with state governors, adding that Chavez had questioned other officials present.

"Our commander is climbing the hill, he`s advancing, and that fills us with great happiness," he said.

The 58-year-old president, who was re-elected in October, has not made any public comments since his latest cancer surgery in Cuba on December 11.

He has been fighting an unspecified type of pelvic cancer, and his long silence has fed speculation about why he has apparently been unable to address the country by phone on television, as he has during past treatments in Cuba.

Government officials have said Chavez is being treated for "respiratory deficiency."
The government has indefinitely postponed Chavez`s inauguration despite complaints by the opposition that the move is unconstitutional.

Pro-Chavez lawmaker and congressional Vice President Dario Vivas told Venezuelan radio station Union Radio that Maduro would represent the government at the annual state-of-the-nation speech Tuesday afternoon before the National Assembly.

Opposition leaders, however, said that under the constitution the president is responsible for giving the annual address. Last January, even as he was between cancer treatments, Chavez delivered the address, speaking for about nine hours before lawmakers.