* Chavez recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba
* Socialist leader was re-elected in October
By Deisy Buitrago
CARACAS, Dec 15 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
has recovered "full intellectual capacity" after a six-hour
cancer operation in Cuba this week, an official said on
Saturday, but offered few details on the socialist firebrand's
Chavez's health weakened sharply after his October
re-election, casting doubt on the future of his "21st century
socialism," which has won broad popular support but also
infuriated adversaries who call him an aspiring dictator.
Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza, who is also
Chavez's son-in-law, said in a phone call from Havana broadcast
over state television that Chavez was continuing to recover.
"He is in a process of progressive stabilization and has
full intellectual capacity, sufficient to send this message to
the Venezuelan people," said Arreaza, who is accompanying Chavez
during his recovery.
"We recognize that there were some moments of tension,
mostly on (Tuesday and Wednesday), but we have overcome them one
by one," he said.
The call came during a celebration of the eighth anniversary
of the founding of the leftist ALBA bloc of nations championed
by Chavez as an anti-U.S. alliance of socialist nations.
Bolivian President Evo Morales and Ecuador's Foreign
Minister Ricardo Patino joined a celebration in downtown Caracas
largely dedicated to celebrating Chavez's leftist policies and
wishing him a swift recovery.
The government has provided no details on the situation of
his cancer, which has returned twice since it was originally
diagnosed in June 2011 and has required four operations. Chavez
has said the cancer struck his pelvic region, but has not given
any further details.
The information minister this week conceded Chavez may not
be in condition to begin his third term on Jan. 10, as mandated
by the constitution.
If he cannot, fresh presidential elections would be called
within 30 days, with Vice President Nicolas Maduro running as
the ruling Socialist Party's candidate.
The opposition would likely field the youthful Henrique
Capriles, who lost to Chavez in October but gave the opposition
its strongest showing in a presidential race against him.
That will depend on Capriles winning reelection for governor
in the state of Miranda against Chavez protege and former Vice
President Elias Jaua in Sunday's regional elections.
If Caprles loses that vote, other opposition hopefuls might
push him aside. Chavez's adversaries hope to retain seven of the
23 governorships they currently hold, and may view the ballot as
a dry run for a possible presidential election down the road.
Energy companies are keenly watching events and hope a
change in government will lead to greater access to the
country's vast crude oil reserves - the world's largest. Years
of combative state takeovers have alienated major oil companies.
Investors drawn to Venezuela's highly traded bonds are
hoping for more fiscal responsibility after a year of blowout