* President in Havana for cancer-linked treatment
* Chavez has not been seen in public for two weeks
By Daniel Wallis and Diego Ore
CARACAS, Nov 29 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
is doing well as he receives medical treatment in Cuba, Vice
President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday, despite a two-week
absence from public view that has raised fresh doubts about his
Chavez, 58, said in a letter to parliament on Tuesday he was
returning to Havana for "hyperbaric oxygenation," which is used
to treat bone decay caused by radiation therapy. The president
has undergone three cancer operations in Cuba since mid-2011.
No images were published of his departure from Caracas, nor
his arrival on the Communist-led island, fueling speculation
among many Venezuelans on whether the latest twist was normal
post-radiation treatment, or a more serious downturn.
"They are carrying out therapies to strengthen his health
even more. The president is good, he is very good, and he is
going to get much better," Maduro told a meeting with workers
that was broadcast live by Venezuelan state TV.
The usually garrulous socialist leader has made few public
appearances since winning a new six-year term in an election in
October. His campaign was more subdued than usual, and he said
afterward that radiation therapy had left him exhausted.
Chavez has open-ended authorization from legislators to
travel, but aims to be back at least for the Jan. 10 start of
his new term, if not for a couple of regional summits before.
His latest absence has put renewed attention on Maduro, his
vice president, and on Congress head Diosdado Cabello, as two
close and powerful allies of the president who might look to
replace him if Chavez were to leave power.
Under the South American country's constitution, an election
would have to be held if Chavez were to leave office within the
first four years of his next six-year term.
In his televised comments, Maduro called on all Venezuelans
to "respect" Chavez as he received treatment, and said voters on
the campaign trail had urged the president to focus on his
"In every town, they told him: 'Take care of yourself
president, be disciplined with your treatment.' And that is
exactly what he's doing now: fulfilling the people's mandate."
Chavez's return to Cuba could be a blow to ruling Socialist
Party candidates who wanted to campaign alongside him ahead of
state elections on Dec. 16. A prolonged absence could also
postpone major policy decisions, such as a widely expected
devaluation of the bolivar currency.
Given investor hopes for a more market-friendly government
in the continent's top oil exporter, Venezuela's widely traded
bonds rose for a third straight day on Thursday.
The benchmark Global 27 bond and state oil
company PDVSA's closely watched 2022 bond were
both at year-high prices of 93.98 and 112.25 respectively.