Chavez's health uncertain; government delays summit

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Cuba’s Fidel Castro, left, and Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez look at Granma state newspaper in an unknown location in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday. (AP Photo/Granma)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s government postponed next week’s summit of Latin American leaders Wednesday, citing President Hugo Chavez’s health as he recovers from surgery in Cuba.

The decision to put off the July 5-6 meeting until later this year was announced shortly after new videos aired on state television showing Chavez chatting with Fidel Castro in Cuba, appearing lucid and talkative. Chavez’s televised appearance broke a long post-surgery silence that has prompted speculation about his health.

“The president is in the middle of a recuperation process and extremely strict medical treatment,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

As a result, it said, Venezuela has consulted with other governments and “made the decision to postpone” the gathering of Latin American and Caribbean leaders on
Margarita Island.

Chavez had been expected to host the summit on the 200th anniversary of Venezuela’s independence from Spain. He promoted it as an event to lay the groundwork for a new regional bloc, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, that would exclude the United States
and Canada.

Chavez has been largely out of sight since the government announced June 10 that he had undergone pelvic surgery.

Chavez has said the surgery removed an abscess, yet a lack of details about his condition has fed speculation in Venezuela that the president might be seriously ill.

He spoke once in a telephone call to state television two days after the operation, and appeared in photographs alongside both Fidel and Raul Castro that were published June 18.

Vice President Elias Jaua said Chavez was on top of his duties and worked on military issues and other matters Wednesday. He did not provide other details about Chavez’s health, nor say when he was expected to return home.