UPDATE 3-Venezuela's Chavez overcomes infection, still having treatment

Sat Jan 26, 2013 7:01pm EST

Related Topics

* Chavez in "best moment" since surgery
    * Seeking to boost exports


    By Fabian Cambero and Brian Ellsworth
    SANTIAGO/CARACAS, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez has overcome a respiratory infection, but is still
being treated for breathing problems after cancer surgery in
Cuba last month, a government minister said on Saturday.
    Official statements have sounded upbeat about the socialist
president's condition in recent weeks, following rumors he was
gravely ill in a hospital in Havana and might be unable to keep 
governing after being re-elected in October to a third term.
    "(Chavez) has overcome the respiratory infection, although
he still has a certain degree of respiratory insufficiency,"
Information Minister Ernesto Villegas told reporters in Chile,
where Latin American and European leaders are meeting.
    "Vice President (Nicolas) Maduro has estimated that Chavez
could come back in weeks, but we haven't wanted to put a time
frame on the president's recovery," Villegas added.  
    
    Earlier on Saturday, Maduro said Chavez, 58, was in his
"best moment" since his operation 45 days ago.
    "What we can share with you is that the commander is in his
best moment that we have seen in all of these days of struggle,"
Maduro said in televised comments before dawn on Saturday, after
returning from Cuba to meet with the president.
    Chavez has not been seen in public since undergoing his
fourth and most complex surgery to treat an illness that might
jeopardize the future of his self-styled revolution.
    He has never said exactly what type of cancer he has, only
that the initial tumor found in mid-2011 was in his pelvic area
and was the size of a baseball. 
    In contrast to Chavez's previous visits to Havana for
treatment, officials have not published any evidence of his
condition. In 2011, with great fanfare, they broadcast videos of
him reading a newspaper, walking in a garden and chatting with
his daughter.  
    In the absence of such proof this time, many Venezuelans are
questioning the terse official bulletins that provide few
details about his condition or treatment.  
     
    ECONOMIC POLICY 
    Maduro said earlier on Saturday that Chavez had ordered a
series of economic decisions that would help boost Venezuelan
exports, comments that came amid speculation the government was
preparing a devaluation of the bolivar currency.
    "He gave a series of orders that the economic team will
share in the coming hours with the people of Venezuela, which
are focused on building Venezuela's export capacity," he said.
    He did not elaborate.
    A Finance Ministry source who asked not to be identified
said on Saturday the ministry was not planning on making any
announcements right now.
    Devaluation would make exports more competitive by lowering
local production costs and spur domestic industries by making
imports less competitive with locally produced goods.
    It would also improve state finances by providing more
bolivars per dollar of oil exports, following heavy spending in
2012 on homes for the poor and pensions for the elderly that
helped Chavez win re-election.
    But it would also push up consumer prices in a country that
already has one of the highest inflation rates in the region.
    A lack of dollars in recent weeks has left many businesses
struggling to import the products they need. Some goods such as
wheat flour and sugar have disappeared from supermarket shelves,
partly because of import bottlenecks.
    Business leaders insist a devaluation would help address the
problem.
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