Venezuela released its first photos of President Hugo Chavez recovering from a December surgery on Friday, showing the ailing leader lying down with his head propped up on a pillow, two of his daughters at his sides.
State television displayed the images after a statement read by Information Minister Ernesto Villegas, which said Chavez was conscious and had his “intellectual functions” intact after two months of “a complicated post-operative process.”
In two photos, Chavez is shown holding the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma, as his daughters Rosa and Maria lean in alongside him. His son-in-law, science minister Jorge Arreaza, said on television that the photos were taken Thursday night.
Villegas said the president was breathing through a tracheal tube that impaired his speech, after overcoming a respiratory infection in the aftermath of his December surgery. He thanked the Venezuelan people for their love and interest they had shown Chavez during his illness.
No tube was visible in the photos shown on state television, in which Chavez wore a blue and white jacket that covered much of his throat.
Chavez has been in Cuba for more than two months for medical treatment. Last month, the Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled that Chavez need not be present to take a scheduled oath of office and begin his fourth term as president, despite the objections of some legal experts.
The Venezuelan government has provided updates on how he is faring, but his long absence from the country and scant details about his treatment have spurred lawmakers to demand more information about his condition. Earlier this week, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Chavez was undergoing “extremely complex and tough” treatments, but gave no further details.
Opposition politicians have questioned whether Chavez is well enough to govern from Cuba.
“A few days ago these liars said they were talking with the president, now they say he can’t talk!” tweeted Henrique Capriles, who ran against Chavez for president last year. “They mock their own people.”
Chavez was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and has undergone several surgeries in Cuba since. He pressed on with his reelection campaign and won over Capriles in October.