CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s convalescing President Hugo Chavez dismissed rumors of a reshuffle on Thursday and kept all his ministers in their jobs, thanking them for their work while he underwent cancer surgery in Cuba.
The 56-year-old also said the personnel of his military high command would remain the same. Local media had speculated he might reshuffle his cabinet this week after returning from an operation that raised questions about his long term health.
“There are so many rumors going around taking advantage of my health situation ... The situation has been difficult, but we are climbing the hill,” he said in his first televised meeting with ministers since returning to Venezuela on Monday.
Back to his folksy, chatty self in some ways, the
socialist leader — who had a malignant tumor removed last month in Cuba — toured a military base earlier on Thursday.
He appeared to show some discomfort in walking and looked paler than usual, but spoke extensively about his new regime.
Famous for swilling coffee, burning the midnight oil and a whirlwind style of government including telephone calls to aides at all hours, Chavez said his personal routine was now strictly controlled, cut back to “bath, supper and bed.”
The charismatic Chavez has reasserted political domination of the OPEC nation he has ruled since 1999 with a surprise return to Caracas this week that electrified supporters, calmed his inner circle and left opponents struggling how to respond.
Doubts remain over his health, however, and whether he can both continue to govern Venezuela effectively and keep his 2012 re-election aspiration on track.
One source close to Chavez’s doctors told Reuters he has colon cancer and faces lengthy chemotherapy treatment.
There has been no confirmation of that, however, and senior government figures say he is recovering well.