Hugo Chavez 'recovering from cancer surgery bleeding'

Members of the armed forces held a vigil praying for the health of Mr Chavez

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez suffered bleeding during surgery for cancer in Cuba on Tuesday but is recovering well, his Communications Minister said.

Ernesto Villegas said the 58-year-old president will require "proper time" to recover because of the complexity of the surgery and its complications.

This is the president's fourth operation since last year.

Mr Villegas called on Venezuelans to continue praying for Mr Chavez.

President Chavez "suffered bleeding that required the use of corrective measures", he said in a statement.

But Venezuelan Vice-President Nicolas Maduro says the condition of Mr Chavez has improved "from stable to favourable".

On Wednesday, Mr Maduro said the president's latest surgery had been "complex, difficult, delicate" and he faced a "complex" recovery.

Former bus driver

The president, who was re-elected to a fourth term in October, is due to take office on 10 January for a six-year term.

Nicolas Maduro, file photo Nicolas Maduro has been named by Hugo Chavez as his preferred successor

The Venezuelan constitution states that, should the president leave office in the first four years of his term, an election must be held within 30 days.

Mr Chavez said Venezuelans should vote for Mr Maduro in fresh elections should his health fail.

The cancer was first detected during initial surgery for a pelvic abscess in June 2011.

During the weekend, Mr Chavez himself acknowledged the seriousness of the situation.

"There are risks. Who can deny it?" he said in a televised speech.

Mr Maduro, a former bus driver, is one of the president's closest advisers.

The Venezuelan government has been giving daily updates on the president's health, unlike during his previous visits to Cuba.

It may be preparing the Venezuelan people for the possibility of Mr Chavez's "socialist revolution" having to go on without him, said the BBC's Sarah Grainger in Venezuela.

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