Latin America & Caribbean

Hugo Chavez: Cuban TV airs new footage

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Media captionThe new images show an apparently well Hugo Chavez

New pictures and video footage of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez have been shown on Cuban state television.

Very little has been seen or heard from Mr Chavez since he had an emergency operation in Cuba on 10 June, prompting speculation about his state of health.

The new images show an apparently well Mr Chavez dressed in a tracksuit in the colours of the Venezuelan flag, chatting animatedly with Fidel Castro.

Cuban TV said the images were taken on Tuesday.

The footage was the lead item on Cuban news. The newscaster described the meeting as "fraternal", but he gave no details about the Venezuelan president's condition.

It showed the two men standing and sitting down as they chatted.

The BBC's Michael Voss in the Cuban capital Havana said the footage seemed to be taken in the grounds of the hospital where Mr Chavez had his operation.

Mr Chavez's unexpectedly long absence from Venezuela has prompted debate there on whether he should delegate executive power to his vice-president.

Venezuelan officials have said the surgery was for a pelvic abscess, but there has been speculation in the Venezuelan and foreign press that the president's condition could be more serious.

Uncertain return

"Let these images serve to bring peace to the people of Venezuela regarding the health of President Chavez," Venezuelan Communications Minister Andres Izarra said on state TV.

"To those of you who are speculating over the president's health, there he is... fine, recovering well."

Until the release of the latest images, only one set of photos of Mr Chavez since his operation had been made public.

These showed him flanked by Fidel and Raul Castro - the former and current leader of communist Cuba - who were apparently visiting him in hospital in Havana.

Mr Chavez had also given only one interview - by phone to a Venezuelan-funded television channel, Telesur.

And in the past few days, there have been several messages posted on his Twitter account.

But his output has been noticeably restricted, especially when compared with his normal, frequent appearances in the media.

There is as yet no clear timetable for his return.

But on Sunday, the president of the National Assembly, Fernando Soto Rojas, said Mr Chavez could be back in the country in time for Venezuela's bicentennial celebrations on 5 July.

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