By Fabian Cambero and Brian Ellsworth
SANTIAGO/CARACAS, Jan 26 Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez has overcome a respiratory infection, but is still
being treated for breathing problems after cancer surgery 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 Cuba.
"(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.
Earlier on Saturday, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said
Chavez was in his "best moment" since his operation 45 days ago,
adding the president had made important economic decisions to
"He's got a smile that's filled with light, his thoughts are
illuminated," Maduro said in televised comments before he left
for the summit.
Maduro had just returned from a visit with Chavez, who has
not been seen in public since undergoing his fourth and most
complex surgery to treat the illness that is jeopardizing his
Maduro's comments about economic policy came as speculation
swirled that Venezuela was preparing a devaluation of the
bolivar currency that would improve state finances by providing
more bolivars per dollar of oil exports.
Devaluation would make exports more competitive by lowering
local production costs, and spur domestic industries by making
imports less competitive with local goods.
"We're going to develop our economy's capacity to export,"
Business leaders have said for weeks a devaluation is
necessary to ease periodic product shortages resulting from a
scarcity of dollars.