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Crowds of supporters of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez have been rallying outside the presidential palace in Caracas, showing their backing for the cancer-stricken leader on the day he was due to be inaugurated for another term.

Supporters wearing red “I am Chavez” T-shirts waved flags as patriotic music blared from speakers.

The swearing-in ceremony has been indefinitely postponed.

Hugo  Chavez, 58, is in hospital in Cuba after undergoing cancer surgery.

The National Assembly on Wednesday voted to give the ailing leader as much time as he needed to recover.

Crowds of supporters of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez have been rallying outside the presidential palace in Caracas

Crowds of supporters of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez have been rallying outside the presidential palace in Caracas

Supreme Court President Luisa Estella Morales said Hugo Chavez could take the oath of office at a later date, adding that Chavez’s re-election had guaranteed “continuity” in government.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said the uncertainties thrown up by President Chavez’s absence had not been ended by the court ruling, but he called on his supporters to refrain from taking to the streets in protest at the court’s ruling.

Henrique Capriles said the Supreme Court Justices had got involved in party politics by taking their “decision to solve the governing party’s problem”.

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Venezuela’s Supreme Court has ruled that the delay of President Hugo Chavez’s inauguration for a new term in office is legal.

Earlier, the National Assembly voted to give Hugo Chavez as much time as he needed to recover from cancer surgery.

The opposition argues that Hugo Chavez’s current mandate expires on 10 January, the day he is due to be sworn in.

Hugo Chavez is in hospital in Cuba and has suffered complications caused by a lung infection.

Supreme Court President Luisa Estella Morales said it would be “absurd” to consider Hugo Chavez’s treatment in Cuba as an unauthorised absence.

She said that the oath of office could be taken at a later date, as the constitution states, and Hugo Chavez’s re-election had guaranteed “continuity” in government.

In a televised statement, Estella Morales read out the unanimous decision of the panel of seven magistrates who handle constitutional issues before the court.

She said there was a clear distinction between the act of taking the oath and the beginning of a new mandate.

Venezuela's Supreme Court has ruled that the delay of President Hugo Chavez's inauguration for a new term in office is legal

Venezuela’s Supreme Court has ruled that the delay of President Hugo Chavez’s inauguration for a new term in office is legal

The Supreme Court considered the swearing-in an important formality, but not indispensable for the start of the new presidential term, she said.

According to the opposition, Hugo Chavez should be declared temporarily incapacitated with the current Speaker of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, not Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, taking over as caretaker leader.

They argue that Nicolas Maduro, who was appointed by Hugo Chavez not elected, will cease to be vice-president on 10 January.

But Estella Morales said that “the executive power made up of the president, vice-president, ministers and other organs, as well as administration officials, will continue to carry out their functions under the principle of administrative continuity”.

She said that the swearing-in ceremony would no doubt happen.

“But at this moment, we can’t say when, how, or where he [the president] will be sworn in,” Estella Morales said.

President Hugo Chavez, who has been in power since 1999 and was re-elected in October for a fourth term, has not been seen or heard in public for almost a month.

Diosdado Cabello has called on Hugo Chavez supporters to take to the streets of Caracas on Thursday to show support for him.

He said several foreign leaders had agreed to be at the Miraflores Presidential Palace on inauguration day.

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Venezuela’s National Assembly has approved a request by President Hugo Chavez to postpone his inauguration for a new term in office, which was scheduled for Thursday, January 10.

Hugo Chavez is in hospital in Cuba after cancer surgery, and has suffered complications caused by a lung infection.

Legislators voted to give Hugo Chavez as much time as he needs to recover.

He has not been seen in public since his last operation a month ago.

Earlier, Vice-President Nicolas Maduro had confirmed that Hugo Chavez would be unable to attend the ceremony.

Venezuela’s opposition has called for the Supreme Court to rule on what should be done if Hugo Chavez is absent.

Its leader, Henrique Capriles, says Hugo Chavez should be declared absent, with the speaker of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, taking over as interim president.

President Hugo Chavez, who has been in power since 1999, was re-elected in October for a fourth term.

The government insists that the inauguration is a mere formality for an incumbent leader.

Venezuela’s National Assembly has approved a request by President Hugo Chavez to postpone his inauguration for a new term in office

Venezuela’s National Assembly has approved a request by President Hugo Chavez to postpone his inauguration for a new term in office

After weeks of speculation, Diosdado Cabello announced to legislators that Hugo Chavez had requested to be sworn in at a later date before the Supreme Court, according to Article 231 of the Constitution.

“On the recommendation of his medical team, the process of post-operation recuperation will have to be prolonged beyond 10 January, [as a result of which] he will be unable to present himself on this date to the National Assembly,” he said, reading a letter from Vice President Nicolas Maduro.

On Monday, Diosdado Cabello called on Hugo Chavez supporters to take to the streets of Caracas on Thursday to show support for him.

He said several foreign leaders had agreed to be at the Miraflores Presidential Palace on inauguration day.

But Henrique Capriles urged them to stay away and not succumb to “a game by a political party”, meaning Hugo Chavez’s ruling party.

In his most recent update on Hugo Chavez, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said his condition was “stable”, and he was “responding to the treatment”.

Venezuela’s constitution

  • Article 231: The president-elect shall take office on January 10 of the first year of their constitutional term, by taking an oath before the National Assembly. If for any reason, (they) cannot be sworn in before the National Assembly, they shall take the oath of office before the Supreme Court.
  • Article 233:(…) When there is an absolute absence of the president-elect before taking office, there shall be a new election by universal, direct and secret vote within the next 30      consecutive days. Pending the election and inauguration of the new president, the president of the National Assembly will assume responsibility for the presidency of the Republic.
  • If the absence of the president of the Republic occurs during the first four years of the constitutional period, there shall be a new election by universal, direct and secret vote within 30 consecutive days. Pending the election and inauguration of the new president, the executive vice-president will be responsible for the presidency of the Republic.
  • Article 234: When the president is temporarily unable to serve, they shall be replaced by the executive vice-president for a period of up to 90 days, which may be extended by resolution of the National Assembly for an additional 90 days.

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Venezuelan authorities have urged President Hugo Chavez’s supporters to join a major rally on Thursday, when he is due to be sworn in for a fourth term.

Hugo Chavez, in hospital in Cuba after cancer surgery, is unlikely to attend.

But Venezuelan National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello said many heads of state would be in Caracas to show their support.

The Catholic Church says ministers risk violating the constitution and the opposition have called for protests.

The opposition insists new elections should be called within 30 days if Hugo Chavez is unable to take the oath on January 10.

Hugo Chavez, 58, who has been in power since 1999, has not been seen in public since his latest operation last month, and government officials have acknowledged that he has suffered complications caused by a lung infection.

The president’s condition was “stable”, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said in a televised statement late on Monday.

Venezuelan authorities have urged President Hugo Chavez's supporters to join a major rally on Thursday, when he is due to be sworn in for a fourth term

Venezuelan authorities have urged President Hugo Chavez’s supporters to join a major rally on Thursday, when he is due to be sworn in for a fourth term

Predicting a major pro-Chavez demonstration, the speaker of the assembly appealed to opposition leaders to act responsibly on Thursday and warned: “We will stop any attempt to destabilize the government.”

“There will be a big gathering here in Caracas on January 10. All of Venezuela is going to come to Caracas and be in front of the Miraflores [Presidential’ Palace. The people will be on the streets,” Diosdado Cabello said.

Earlier, the Venezuelan Catholic Church said it would be a morally unacceptable violation of the constitution to allow Hugo Chavez to remain in power after missing his inauguration.

The head of the Venezuelan Conference of Bishops, Diego Padron, said Hugo Chavez had to attend his inauguration when his term ended on 10 January.

“It is not our job to intervene publically, but in this case the good of the country and the defence of ethics are at stake. To alter the constitution to attain a political objective is morally unacceptable,” added Monsignor Diego Padron.

The assembly speaker hit back, insisting that the government “had always respected the constitution and would continue to do so”.

“We believe the call made by the Bishops’ Conference today is aimed at the sectors of the opposition and the high echelons of the Church who took active part in the 2002 coup attempt [against President Hugo Chavez],” he said.

Diosdado Cabello was re-elected as speaker on Saturday.

If Hugo Chavez does not take the oath of office, the Speaker of the National Assembly should act as caretaker president until new elections are held within 30 days, the opposition says.

In the absence of President Chavez, Diosdado Cabello and Vice-President Nicolas Maduro are in effect running the country.

Attorney-General Cilia Flores said on Sunday that Hugo Chavez could be sworn in at a later date.

Hugo Chavez is a “re-elected president, not an elected candidate”, said Cilia Flores, adding that the key date was October 7 when President Chavez was elected for his fourth term.

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Venezuela’s National Assembly has chosen its leader, a possible stand-in for President Hugo Chavez who is in Cuba following cancer surgery.

The assembly re-elected the incumbent Diosdado Cabello, a leading ally of Hugo Chavez.

Opposition leaders are calling for new elections if the president cannot be sworn in for his new term on Thursday.

In such a situation, Diosdado Cabello would become caretaker president pending the outcome of the vote.

Vice-President Nicolas Maduro has dismissed the opposition’s calls, saying the Supreme Court can swear in Hugo Chavez at a later date.

Diosdado Cabello’s re-election was expected in the National Assembly, which is dominated by Hugo Chavez’s governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

“The president will continue being president beyond January 10, nobody should have any doubt about that,” Diosdado Cabello said after his election, adding: “We will never defraud the people.”

Nicolas Maduro watched the vote and debate from the balcony of the chamber.

Venezuela's National Assembly has chosen Diosdado Cabello as its new leader, a possible stand-in for President Hugo Chavez

Venezuela’s National Assembly has chosen Diosdado Cabello as its new leader, a possible stand-in for President Hugo Chavez

Diosdado Cabello finds himself in a position of great power and influence.

Analysts say he is seen as a political rival to Nicolas Maduro, whom Hugo Chavez has named as his preferred successor.

However, both men have vowed to maintain unity in the PSUV. They both visited Hugo Chavez in Cuba earlier in the week, along with several other dignitaries.

Hundreds of Chavez supporters rallied outside parliament on Saturday following an appeal by Diosdado Cabello.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas, who was among the first government officials to arrive for the vote, said: “There is a clear leadership here by Comandante Chavez who is so responsible that he has even studied the worst case scenarios.

“We have a president who has been elected from 2013 to 2019… and that will be perfectly fulfilled. Chavez is the president of Venezuela. There is no other.”

Experts have different interpretations of what it would mean if Hugo Chavez misses his inauguration.

Some in the opposition say that if Hugo Chavez is still in Cuba, power should pass to the head of the National Assembly and new elections should be held within 30 days.

But Nicolas Maduro has insisted that Thursday is not a fixed deadline and that there was no reason to declare Hugo Chavez’s “absolute absence” from office.

“The formality of his swearing-in can be resolved in the Supreme Court,” he said.

“The president right now is president.”

Hugo Chavez – who was re-elected for a fourth term in October – has not been seen in public since his latest round of surgery more than three weeks ago.

Ernesto Villegas said on Thursday that the president had suffered complications due to a lung infection and had a “respiratory insufficiency”.

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Venezuelan National Assembly is due to begin its new session as the ill-health of President Hugo Chavez casts doubt over his inauguration on January 10.

Current leader Diosdado Cabello is due to be re-elected head of the assembly – dominated by Hugo Chavez’s supporters.

President Hugo Chavez is in Cuba struggling to recover from his latest round of surgery to treat cancer.

Opposition leaders are calling for new elections if he cannot be sworn in for his new six-year term on Thursday.

But Vice-President Nicolas Maduro has said the Supreme Court can swear in Hugo Chavez at a later date.

The normally routine opening of the National Assembly has been given added significance because of Hugo Chavez’s absence.

Under the constitution, the head of the assembly must lead the country if new elections are called.

Venezuelan National Assembly is due to begin its new session as the ill-health of President Hugo Chavez casts doubt over his inauguration on January 10

Venezuelan National Assembly is due to begin its new session as the ill-health of President Hugo Chavez casts doubt over his inauguration on January 10

Analysts say Diosdado Cabello is seen as a political rival to Nicolas Maduro, whom Hugo Chavez has named as his successor.

However, both men have vowed to maintain unity in the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

Both visited Hugo Chavez in Cuba earlier in the week, along with several other dignitaries.

Diosdado Cabello called on Hugo Chavez supporters to rally outside parliament on Saturday “to exhort revolutionary unity and head off the campaign of rumors”.

“If the opposition thinks it will find a space in the National Assembly to conspire against the people, it’s mistaken once again,” Diosdado Cabello said on Twitter.

“It will be defeated.”

Experts have different interpretations of what it would mean if Hugo Chavez misses his inauguration.

Some in the opposition say that if Hugo Chavez is still in Cuba, power should pass to the head of the National Assembly and new elections should be held within 30 days.

But Nicolas Maduro has insisted that Thursday is not a fixed deadline and that there was no reason to declare Hugo Chavez’s “absolute absence” from office.

“The formality of his swearing-in can be resolved in the Supreme Court,” he said.

“The president right now is president.”

Hugo Chavez – who was re-elected for a fourth term in October – has not been seen in public since his latest round of surgery more than three weeks ago.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said on Thursday that the president had suffered complications due to a lung infection and had a “respiratory insufficiency”.

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Venezuela’s government has said President Hugo Chavez can begin his new six-year term in office on January 10, even if he is too ill to attend a swearing-in ceremony.

Vice-President Nicolas Maduro said the Supreme Court could swear in Hugo Chavez at a later date.

Nicolas Maduro dismissed opposition calls for new elections should Hugo Chavez not attend.

President Hugo Chavez is in Cuba struggling to recover from his latest round of surgery to treat cancer.

He has not been seen in public since the operation more than three weeks ago.

Observers have different interpretations of what it would mean if Hugo Chavez misses his inauguration on Thursday.

Some in the opposition have said that if Hugo Chavez is still in Cuba, power should pass to the speaker of parliament, and new elections should be held within 30 days.

But Nicolas Maduro said Thursday was not a fixed deadline, and that there was no reason to declare Hugo Chavez’s “absolute absence” from office.

“The formality of his swearing-in can be resolved in the Supreme Court,” he said.

“The president right now is president,” he said, waving a pocket-sized copy of the constitution.

“Don’t mess with the people. Respect democracy.”

Venezuela’s government has said President Hugo Chavez can begin his new six-year term in office on January 10, even if he is too ill to attend a swearing-in ceremony

Venezuela’s government has said President Hugo Chavez can begin his new six-year term in office on January 10, even if he is too ill to attend a swearing-in ceremony

The head of the main opposition coalition, Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, said the government “doesn’t want to admit that the president is absent”.

“The official version of what is happening is unsustainable,” he told reporters.

Officials have said that Hugo Chavez, 58, has suffered from complications brought on by a severe lung infection that developed after his latest surgery.

Nicolas Maduro said the president had “a right to rest and tranquility, and to recuperate”.

“We will have the commander well again.”

Nicolas Maduro and National Assembly Head Diosdado Cabello visited Hugo Chavez in Cuba earlier in the week, along with several other dignitaries.

The vice-president said President Hugo Chavez was “conscious” and had gripped his hand firmly as they discussed Venezuelan politics.

Nicolas Maduro and Diosdado Cabello dismissed rumors of a split in the governing socialist movement, after their return from Cuba.

“We’re more unified than ever,” said Nicolas Maduro, who Hugo Chavez recently named as his preferred successor.

“We swore in front of Commander Chavez that we’ll be united at the side of our people,” he said.

The National Assembly is due to meet on Saturday to elect its leadership, with Diosdado Cabello expected to be re-elected.

He has appealed to supporters of Hugo Chavez to rally outside parliament during the session.

“If the opposition thinks it will find a space in the National Assembly to conspire against the people, it’s mistaken once again,” Diosdado Cabello said on Twitter.

“It will be defeated.”

Hugo Chavez was re-elected to a fourth term as president in October.

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The Venezuelan main opposition movement has called on the government to “tell the whole truth” about the health of President Hugo Chavez.

Hugo Chavez has not been seen or heard in public since having cancer surgery in Cuba three weeks ago.

Opposition leader Ramon Aveledo accused the government of acting irresponsibly by making Venezuelans believe President Hugo Chavez was still exercising his duties.

The president’s condition is described by officials as stable but delicate.

Science minister Jorge Arreaza, who is also Hugo Chavez’s son-in-law, tweeted from Havana on Wednesday that the medical team had explained that the president’s condition “continued being stable within an overall delicate condition”.

Hugo Chavez is due to be sworn in for another six-year term on January 10, but it is unclear if he will be able to attend ceremony.

Ramon Aveledo, the leader of the umbrella opposition group Table for Democratic Unity (MUD), demanded a diagnosis and a medical prognosis for Hugo Chavez.

“It is essential that the government act in a manner that gives confidence,” he told a news conference.

“The official version [of President Hugo Chavez’s health] hides more information than it gives,” Ramon Aveledo said.

The Venezuelan main opposition movement has called on the government to tell the whole truth about the health of President Hugo Chavez

The Venezuelan main opposition movement has called on the government to tell the whole truth about the health of President Hugo Chavez

On Tuesday, Vice-President Nicolas Maduro said Hugo Chavez was in “a complex and delicate post-operative state”.

Speaking from Havana, Nicolas Maduro said Hugo Chavez had gripped his hand “with enormous strength” as they spoke, discussing political matters, the economy in Venezuela and the swearing-in of new governors following regional elections.

But Nicolas Maduro gave very little further detail about the condition of Hugo Chavez.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Wednesday that Hugo Chavez’s situation was “very worrying”.

Evo Morales, a friend and ally of the Venezuelan president, was in Cuba last week.

“Hopefully our prayers and rituals will be effective and save the life of our brother, President Chavez,” Evo Morales said.

President Hugo Chavez, 58, has been in power since 1999 and was elected for a fourth term in office in October.

It is unclear what will happen if Hugo Chavez cannot attend his swearing-in ceremony in one week’s time.

National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello recently said that the ceremony could be delayed. But the opposition says such a move would be unconstitutional.

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is conscious but in a “delicate and complex situation” after a cancer operation in Cuba, says his deputy, Nicolas Maduro.

Vice-President Nicolas Maduro said he had seen Hugo Chavez twice in the past two days.

The 58-year-old president has been in power since 1999 and was elected for a fourth term in office in October.

Hugo Chavez is due to be sworn in for a new term on January 10, but it is unclear if he will be able to attend ceremony.

But Nicolas Maduro angrily denounced speculation the president’s health was failing.

Earlier, Venezuelan cabinet ministers prayed for Hugo Chavez’s recovery during a Mass at the presidential palace in Caracas.

Official New Year celebrations were called off after Nicolas Maduro announced the president had suffered new complications.

Speaking in Havana, Nicolas Maduro said he had visited Hugo Chavez in hospital twice since arriving on Saturday.

“We have faith in God and in the doctors that Hugo Chavez will continue to make progress and sooner or later will emerge from this complex and delicate post-operative state he is in,” he told the Latin American satellite network Telesur.

President Hugo Chavez is conscious but in a delicate and complex situation after cancer operation in Cuba, says his deputy, Nicolas Maduro

President Hugo Chavez is conscious but in a delicate and complex situation after cancer operation in Cuba, says his deputy, Nicolas Maduro

But he gave very little further concrete information about the condition of the president, who underwent his operation on December 11.

He said Hugo Chavez gripped his hand “with gigantic force” as they spoke, discussing political matters, the economy in Venezuela and the swearing-in of new governors following regional elections.

He denounced what he called right-wing media rumors about Hugo Chavez’s health as the work of “mentally ill” people, saying they were inventing and manipulating information without respect for the president or his family.

Earlier this year, Hugo Chavez said he had been cleared of a cancer diagnosed in 2011 and was fit to serve out his six-year term.

But on December 11, he went through his fourth cancer operation in Cuba.

There are also many questions about what will happen on January 10 when Hugo Chavez is due to be re-inaugurated.

National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello recently said that the swearing-in ceremony would be delayed in the case of Hugo Chavez’s absence.

But the opposition says such move would be unconstitutional.

The Venezuelan constitutions states that a new election should be called in 30 days should the president not be fit enough to attend his inauguration, the opposition argues.

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Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has suffered “new complications” after a cancer operation in Cuba, his vice-president Nicolas Maduro has said.

In a televised address from Havana, Nicolas Maduro said Hugo Chavez continued to be in a “delicate state”.

Hugo Chavez underwent his fourth cancer operation on December 11 in Cuba but suffered a respiratory infection.

The president – who has been in power since 1999 – won another term in October’s election.

Nicolas Maduro did not give details about Hugo Chavez’s condition but said the latest complications were connected to the respiratory infection.

“We have been informed of new complications that arose as a consequence of the respiratory infection we already knew about,” he said.

“The president gave us precise instructions so that, after finishing the visit, we would tell the [Venezuelan] people about his current health condition.

“The state of health of President Chavez continues to be delicate.”

He added that the treatment was “not without risk.”

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has suffered new complications after cancer operation in Cuba

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has suffered new complications after cancer operation in Cuba

Nicolas Maduro, appearing solemn, spoke alongside Hugo Chavez’s eldest daughter, Rosa, his son-in-law Jorge Arreaza, and Venezuelan Attorney General Cilia Flores.

The vice-president said he would remain in Havana “for the coming hours” but did not specify how long.

Late on Sunday, Venezuela’s Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said a government-organized New Year’s Eve concert in central Caracas had been cancelled and he urged Venezuelans to pray for President Chavez.

It is now three weeks since Hugo Chavez has been seen or heard from in person.

There continues to be huge secrecy surrounding his precise condition.

There are also many questions about what will happen on January 10 when Hugo Chavez is due to be re-inaugurated.

National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello recently said that the swearing-in ceremony would be delayed in the case of Hugo Chavez’s absence.

However, opposition leaders say postponing the inauguration would be unconstitutional.

The constitution states that if there is an “absolute absence” of the president, elections must be held within 30 days.

Hugo Chavez has said that, should his health fail, Venezuelans should vote for Nicolas Maduro in fresh elections.

Officials have never disclosed the type or severity of Hugo Chavez’s cancer, which was first diagnosed in June 2011.

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Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has improved after a cancer operation in Cuba and has started walking and exercising, country’s Vice-President Nicolas Maduro has said.

Nicolas Maduro told state TV he had spoken on the phone to HUgo Chavez, describing the call as “the best present we could get this Christmas”.

Hugo Chavez underwent his fourth cancer operation on December 11 in Cuba but suffered a respiratory infection.

President Hugo Chavez – in power since 1999 – won another term in October’s election.

Earlier, Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said: “The patient has shown a slight improvement in his condition.”

However, no pictures of HUgo Chavez after the surgery have been released so far.

Hugo Chavez, 58, is scheduled to be sworn in on January 10.

The lack of any word from Hugo Chavez for two weeks prior to the comments by the two senior officials raised serious concerns about his current condition and his ability to attend the swearing-in ceremony.

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has improved after a cancer operation in Cuba and has started walking and exercising

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has improved after a cancer operation in Cuba and has started walking and exercising

Bolivian President Evo Morales was in Cuba over the weekend but did not speak to reporters and a Cuban government invitation for media to cover his arrival and departure was withdrawn.

Evo Morales is expected to issue a statement later on Hugo Chavez’s condition.

The country’s constitution states that elections must be held within 30 days if there is an “absolute absence” of the president.

But National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello has said Venezuela will not call fresh elections if President Hugo Chavez is unable to be sworn in on 10 January.

Diosdado Cabello said the swearing-in ceremony would be delayed.

“Since [President] Chavez might not be here on 10 January, [the opposition] hopes the National Assembly will call elections. That’s not going to happen. Commandante Hugo Chavez will continue to be our president,” Diosdado Cabello said.

According to Diosdado Cabello, the constitution allows him to be sworn in before Supreme Court justices, but it does not stipulate when or where.

Hugo Chavez has said Venezuelans should vote for Nicolas Maduro in fresh elections, should his health fail.

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Cuban surgeons have successfully operated on Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez to remove cancerous tissue, says his Vice-President Nicolas Maduro.

It was the president’s fourth cancer-related operation since June 2011.

At the weekend, Hugo Chavez spoke for the first time about a possible successor, naming Nicolas Maduro as his preferred candidate.

In a TV address, Nicolas Maduro described the president’s operation as both “complex” and a “complete success”.

“We’ve lived through complex moments of tension,” he added, saying that the operation had lasted more than six hours.

In Caracas, the vice-president then led an outdoor vigil with a group of the president’s supporters joining in with a recording of Hugo Chavez singing the national anthem.

Hugo Chavez’s children and grandchildren, as well as political allies including National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez, were in Havana to be near the president while he underwent the operation, Nicolas Maduro said.

Cuban surgeons have successfully operated on Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez to remove cancerous tissue

Cuban surgeons have successfully operated on Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez to remove cancerous tissue

The Venezuelan president had returned from cancer-related treatment in Cuba on Friday but he left again from Caracas early on Monday for further treatment.

The illness was first detected during an initial surgery for a pelvic abscess in June 2011.

During the weekend, Hugo Chavez himself had acknowledged the seriousness of the situation after tests had detected more cancerous cells in the pelvic area.

“There are risks. Who can deny it?” he said in a televised speech on Saturday.

Hugo Chavez added that if his health failed and new elections had to be held, people should vote for Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver and one of the president’s closest advisers.

“He is a complete revolutionary, a man of great experience despite his youth, with great dedication and capacity for work,” Hugo Chavez said.

In his first speech since being named as Hugo Chavez’s successor, a tearful Nicolas Maduro thanked the president.

“We are eternally grateful to Chavez. We will be loyal to Chavez beyond this lifetime,” he said, adding: “We are the children of Chavez.”

Hugo Chavez, who was re-elected in October for a fourth term as president, is due to begin his new six-year term in office on 10 January.

The constitution states that should the president leave office in the first four years of his term, an election must be held within 30 days.

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Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez says he will return to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery.

Hugo Chavez, 58, only returned on Friday from his last course of treatment there.

In a TV address Hugo Chavez said it was “absolutely essential” that he received further treatment, adding that more malignant cells had been found.

The Venezuelan leader has had three cancer operations in Cuba since mid-2011, but few details have been released.

Speaking from the Miraflores presidential palace, Hugo Chavez said that if his health failed and a new election had to be held, his supporters should vote for Vice-President Nicolas Maduro.

Correspondents say it is the first time the president has named a successor.

“Unfortunately, during these exhaustive exams they found some malignant cells in the same area. It is absolutely necessary, absolutely essential, that I have to undergo a new surgical intervention,” Hugo Chavez said.

“With God’s will, like on the previous occasions, we will come out of this victorious.”

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez says he will return to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez says he will return to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery

During his latest visit to Cuba, Hugo Chavez was said to be receiving “hyperbaric oxygenation” therapy, which can ease ailments caused by radiation treatment.

Hugo Chavez has spent many months receiving surgery and treatment in Cuba since his diagnosis in July 2011.

In May, he declared himself free of cancer.

However, the president has never given much detail about the type of cancer he suffered from, and chose to be treated in Cuba rather than Venezuela, which has led the opposition to call for greater transparency.

Hugo Chavez’s recent visit to Cuba follows his re-election in October for a third term in office.

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Fidel Castro has suffered a massive stroke and has only weeks to live, a doctor has claimed.

Jose Rafael Marquina said the 86-year-old revolutionary Cuban leader was in a vegetative state and is “moribund” at a house in western Havana.

Despite this, a letter from Fidel Castro was published by state media denying he was on death’s door. Relatives have also denied the claims.

Jose Rafael Marquina told Spain’s ABC newspaper that Fidel Castro had suffered a “massive embolism of the right cerebral artery” and while not on life support or breathing artificially, was “moribund” at a house in a gated former country club in the Cuban capital.

He also said that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had travelled suddenly to Havana to be with his friend and ally.

Reached by The Associated Press, Jose Rafael Marquina said his sources were in Venezuela, but he would not identify them or say how they were in a position to have information about Fidel Castro’s health.

He also indicated he had received corroborating evidence from sources on Twitter, but would not say who.

Fidel Castro has suffered a massive stroke and has only weeks to live

Fidel Castro has suffered a massive stroke and has only weeks to live

His claims have been reported on social media sites and by some news organizations. However, Jose Rafael Marquina, has made some claims before that have not panned out.

In April, Jose Rafael Marquina said that Hugo Chavez, who has been battling an undisclosed kind of cancer, was in his “last days” and would not last to November. With less than two weeks to go, the Venezuelan leader says he’s beaten the illness and appears stronger in public.

Fidel Castro’s health is considered a matter of national security in Cuba and few details are released.

Rumors that the former Cuban leader has died or is near death have circulated repeatedly for years, but they gained force after he failed to issue a public statement congratulating Hugo Chavez on his October 7 election victory.

Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since March, when he received visiting Pope Benedict XVI. He has also stopped writing his once-constant opinion pieces, the last of which appeared in June.

There was no immediate comment from the Cuban government on the latest claims, but a letter attributed to Fidel Castro was published Thursday by Cuban state media. In it, he congratulated graduates of a medical school on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.

Two close family members of Fidel Castro have also recently denied he is in grave condition. Juanita Castro, the former leader’s sister, told the AP in Miami that reports of her brother’s condition are “pure rumors” and “absurd”.

Son Alex Castro told a reporter for a weekly Cuban newspaper that his father “is well, going about his daily life”.

 

Venezuelan voters are set to go to the polls in what is predicted to be the country’s most tightly contested presidential election in a decade.

Left-wing incumbent Hugo Chavez, first elected in 1999, is being challenged by opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

Hugo Chavez wants to continue what he calls his socialist revolution while Henrique Capriles has promised to restore economic growth.

Almost 19 million Venezuelans are eligible to vote in the election.

Hugo Chavez – who is seeking a fourth term in office – was diagnosed with cancer last year but says he has now fully recovered.

A colorful and often controversial figure on the international stage, President Hugo Chavez, 58, has nationalized key sectors of the economy.

Venezuela is a major oil producer and high oil prices over the past decade have allowed his government to fund health-care, education programmes and social housing.

He says he needs another term to complete his “Bolivarian Revolution” towards socialism.

However, Henrique Capriles, 40, and the opposition say the president’s policies have led to bureaucracy, inefficiency, and shortages.

They also accuse Hugo Chavez of authoritarianism and of suppressing the judiciary and silencing critics in the media.

Henrique Capriles says a lack of investment in Venezuela’s crucial oil industry has led to a decline in production.

Both candidates held huge final rallies on Thursday – the last day of campaigning.

The two candidates have also used social media to encourage voters to cast their ballots.

“Good morning to all, one day left to open the door to the future!” Henrique Capriles wrote on his Twitter account on Saturday.

“Comrades across the world: Be assured that Bolivar’s people will continue to work to make another world possible, that is, a socialist one!” President Hugo Chavez tweeted.

Almost 140,000 soldiers will be deployed to guard more than 10,000 voting centres.

A week before the election, three opposition activists were killed during a campaign rally, and four people were injured in a shooting during a voting rehearsal in September.

From Saturday evening to Monday evening, the sale of alcohol is banned and only the security forces will be allowed to carry arms.

National Electoral Council official Socorro Hernandez said that everything would be “100% ready for polling day”.

She called on all parties and non-governmental groups to contribute to a peaceful election “and avoid any distortions”.

While polls are scheduled to close at 18:00 local time, National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena said that the hours could be extended if voters were still queuing to cast their ballots.

 

Governments in Latin America have reacted angrily to the impeachment of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo in the wake of a land dispute scandal.

Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have condemned the move and recalled their ambassadors for consultations.

But Federico Franco, who replaced Fernando Lugo as president, denied that Lugo’s removal from office was a coup.

In his first news conference, Federico Franco said there had been no break with democracy.

A 39-4 vote in the Senate on Friday saw Fernando Lugo impeached, in a case stemming from his handling of clashes between farmers and police last week in which at least 17 people died.

Earlier, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez had said her country “would not validate the coup” in Paraguay.

Governments in Latin America have reacted angrily to the impeachment of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo in the wake of a land dispute scandal

Governments in Latin America have reacted angrily to the impeachment of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo in the wake of a land dispute scandal

President Cristina Fernandez also said that the South American trade bloc, Mercosur, would take “appropriate measures” at next week’s summit in Argentina.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota condemned the impeachment as a “backward step” liable to be sanctioned by regional institutions such as Mercosur, Reuters news agency reports.

Federico Franco, who had been serving as Fernando Lugo’s vice-president, was sworn in as president immediately after the impeachment.

He insisted the proceedings had been conducted in line with Paraguay constitution.

“What was carried out was a political trial in accordance with the constitution and the laws,” he said.

Federico Franco acknowledged the impeachment had caused tensions with Paraguay neighbors.

“I am calm, we are going to organize the house, we are going to contact our neighboring countries in due time and I’m absolutely certain that they are going to understand the situation in Paraguay,” Federico Franco said.

The presidents of Ecuador and Venezuela, Rafael Correa and Hugo Chavez, were also outspoken in their criticism of the move.

“The Ecuadorian government will not recognize any president that isn’t Fernando Lugo,” Rafael Correa said.

“We will not lend ourselves to these tales of alleged legal formalities, which clearly attack democracy,” he added.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez displayed a similar sentiment: “In the name of the people of Venezuela and in the name of the Venezuelan government and as commander-in-chief, I’ll say it.

“We, the Venezuelan government, the Venezuelan state, do not recognize this illegitimate and illegal government that has been installed.”

The governments of Colombia, Mexico and Chile have said they regretted the fact that Fernando Lugo had not been “given reasonable time to prepare his defense”.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said Fernando Lugo’s removal from office was an “attack on the legal foundation of the state”.

The United States and Spain have avoided publicly opposing or supporting the move, instead pressing the principle of democracy in Paraguay.

A statement from the Spanish foreign ministry said: “Spain defends full respect for democratic institutions and the state of law and trusts that Paraguay, in respect for its constitution and international commitments, will manage to handle this political crisis and safeguard the peaceful coexistence of the Paraguayan people.”

The United States took a similar stance.

US State Department spokeswoman Darla Jordan was quoted as saying: “We urge all Paraguayans to act peacefully, with calm and responsibility, in the spirit of Paraguay democratic principles.”

 

President Hugo Chavez is back to Venezuela coming from Cuba, where he has successfully completed a court of radiotherapy for cancer.

Hugo Chavez hugged ministers on the runway in Caracas and broke into song in front of TV cameras.

“In the last few days we successfully completed the radiation cycle, as planned by the medical team,” he said.

Hugo Chavez, in power since 1999, has insisted he will run for president again in an election due in October.

“I come with great optimism that this treatment will have the effects we hope for, always asking God to help us and give us the miracle of life to keep serving,” he said after 11 days in Cuba.

President Hugo Chavez is back to Venezuela coming from Cuba, where he has successfully completed a court of radiotherapy for cancer

President Hugo Chavez is back to Venezuela coming from Cuba, where he has successfully completed a court of radiotherapy for cancer

Officials have said that Hugo Chavez’s low profile in recent weeks has been due to the effects of radiotherapy.

However, there had been speculation his condition might be more serious than has been revealed.

Hugo Chavez, 57, said he would continue “rigorously” following medical instructions over the coming days.

“But as the hours and days pass, I’m sure that with God’s favor, medical science and this soldier’s body, I will get back to where I must be, in the front line of the battle, alongside the Venezuelan people, promoting the socialist revolution,” he said.

In February, vice-president Elias Jaua said surgeons had successfully removed a lesion in Hugo Chavez’s pelvic region.

Hugo Chavez had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from the same area last year.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan intelligence agents have questioned a crossword compiler on suspicion of inciting the murder of Hugo Chavez’s brother, Adan.

Neptali Segovia was accused of hiding a coded assassination message in the Ultimas Noticias newspaper.

Answers to some of the clues in his crosswords included the words “kill”, “gunfire” and “Adan”, it is alleged.

Neptali Segovia denied the accusations, saying he had volunteered to be questioned to clarify the issue.

The accusation against him was made earlier this week by TV pundit Miguel Angel Perez Pirela, who presents a programme on state channel VTV.

He said a team of psychologists and mathematicians had concluded that the Spanish-language crossword contained a coded assassination plot against Adan Chavez.

“These sorts of messages were used a lot during World War II,” he said, comparing it to secret codes used by the French Resistance.

 

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Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has returned to Cuba for more radiotherapy to treat a recurrence of his cancer.

Hugo Chavez announced his departure from Caracas in a Twitter message sent from the airport.

“Heading for Havana with faith in Resurrected Christ. We’ll keep living and keep winning!”

Hugo Chavez had surgery in February to remove a second tumor from his pelvic area.

The President told Venezuelans he was returning to Cuba for more treatment after an emotional plea for his life at an Easter mass.

Speaking through tears in his hometown of Barinas, Hugo Chavez asked Jesus to give him more time because he had “things left to do”.

“Give me your crown, Christ, give it to me, I will bleed, give me your cross, a hundred crosses, but give me life, because I still have things left to do for the [Venezuelan] people and for the homeland,” Hugo Chavez said during Thursday night’s mass.

He later said it had been “a spontaneous, sentimental thing” brought about by the presence of his family next to him at the mass.

“My mum gave me her hand with such tenderness, and Dad gave me his… and because of this, tears rolled down my face”, Hugo Chavez said.

Hugo Chavez told Venezuelans he was returning to Cuba for more treatment after an emotional plea for his life at an Easter mass

Hugo Chavez told Venezuelans he was returning to Cuba for more treatment after an emotional plea for his life at an Easter mass

The exact nature of Hugo Chavez’s cancer has not been disclosed, fuelling rumors that his health may be worse than officially stated.

Hugo Chavez, who has been in power since 1999, has said that despite his health problems he is determined to win October’s presidential election.

Last year, he had surgery and four rounds of chemotherapy in Cuba, after a baseball-sized growth was detected in his pelvic region.

After the treatment he had said he was free from cancer, only to suffer a recurrence that required surgery in February.

Just hours before leaving for Havana, the Venezuelan leader unveiled a 32.25% increase in the minimum wage, to be introduced in two stages later this year.

“In the 1980s and 90s, the minimum wage was basically frozen, then inflation went through the roof… we’ve been working on this for several weeks,” Hugo Chavez said in a televised cabinet meeting.

Venezuela inflation is currently about 25% a year.

Details were also published of telephone calls Hugo Chavez had made to the leaders of Ecuador and Bolivia, as well as to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Hugo Chavez discussed the unrest in Syria, “especially the successful way the Syrian government had contained armed terrorist gangs… which were seeking in vain to impede the advance of political reforms pushed forward by the Assad government,” according to AP news agency.

At least 9,000 people have been killed, mostly by security forces, since an uprising broke out last year against Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

 

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is returning to Cuba for further radiotherapy treatment for cancer.

Hugo Chavez had surgery in Cuba last month to remove a tumor in his pelvic area after a recurrence of cancer first treated last year.

His illness has cast doubt on his ability to campaign for re-election in October.

Hugo Chavez will coincide in Havana with Pope Benedict, who is due to fly to Cuba on Monday.

“Tonight I leave for Havana. I have decided on the recommendation of my medical team and my political team to begin the radiation treatment on Sunday,” Hugo Chavez said during a televised meeting with his cabinet.

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is returning to Cuba for further radiotherapy treatment for cancer

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is returning to Cuba for further radiotherapy treatment for cancer

Hugo Chavez, 57, said the treatment was a complement to the surgery he had a month ago, from which he says he is recovering well.

Last year Hugo Chavez had surgery and four rounds of chemotherapy in Cuba, after a baseball-sized growth was detected in his pelvic region.

The Venezuelan leader has never revealed the exact nature of his cancer, fuelling speculation that his health may be worse than officially stated.

Hugo Chavez has told Venezuelan to ignore rumors he says are aimed at destabilizing the country.

In October’s election, he is facing a strong challenge from opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski.

Hugo Chavez, who has been in power since 1999, is seeking another six-year term to continue his programme of “socialist revolution”.

 

Fidel Castro, the former Cuban president has made a rare public appearance to launch his memoirs.

The book, “Guerrilla of Time”, is almost 1,000 pages long and relates his childhood and rise to power in the Cuban Revolution.

He said it was every Cuban’s duty to fight until the last moment, for Cuba, the planet, and humanity.

Fidel Castro, 85, had not been seen in public since April last year.

Communist Party newspaper Granma said the launch at the Havana Convention Centre lasted more than six hours.

“Guerrilla of Time” is almost 1,000 pages long and relates Fidel castro’s childhood and rise to power in the Cuban Revolution

“Guerrilla of Time” is almost 1,000 pages long and relates Fidel castro’s childhood and rise to power in the Cuban Revolution

The two-volume memoir is based on conversations between Fidel Castro and journalist Katiuska Blanco.

It starts with former President Fidel Castro’s earliest childhood memories and takes the reader up to December 1958, the eve of the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista by Castro and his followers.

Culture Minister Abel Prieto and Director of the Cuban Writers’ Union Miguel Barnet were among those speaking at the launch.

Miguel Barnet said the memoirs were “as vivid as a 3D film”.

At the event, Fidel Castro spoke about current affairs, praising Latin American students for “standing up for their right to free education”.

Fidel Castro also paid tribute to his friend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who “had done more than anyone else for the Venezuelan people”.

It was the first time Fidel Castro had appeared in public since the closing session of the Communist Party Congress in April 2011.

Fidel Castro handed over the presidency to his brother Raul in 2006, and has kept a low profile since, fuelling speculation over his health.

At least 13 people have been killed and another 13 were injured after a petrol tanker crashed bursting into flames and engulfing seven cars and a bus in burning fuel in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.

Rescue workers have been pulling charred bodies from the scorched vehicles.

The tanker is reported to have flipped over after the driver lost control, spilling petrol that then caught fire. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

Caracas fire department coordinator William Martinez said the crash sent a river of burning fuel down the Pan-American Highway west of Caracas, engulfing other vehicles.

The flames were so intense that vegetation beside the road also caught fire and nearby houses were threatened before the blaze was brought under control, William Martinez told Venezuelan National Radio.

Survivor Mariana Salas said the bus caught fire in a matter of seconds.

“People started to get out of cars, the traffic was paralyzed, nothing was moving in either direction,” she said.

“Around 15 or 20 of us opened a route through the vegetation and managed to save ourselves.”

President Hugo Chavez expressed dismay at the “lamentable tragedy”.

“I send my prayers to the victims of the accident on the Pan-American Highway. To their families my feelings of sadness and all necessary support,” Hugo Chavez wrote on Twitter.

The Italian clothing company Benetton has been heavily criticized by the Vatican for using an image of Pope Benedict kissing an imam on the mouth in its latest shock advertising campaign.

The controversial image, which was hung from a bridge near the holy city early today, shows the Pope embracing Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, one of Islam’s leading figures.

Other images in the campaign, which is part of the Benetton’s support for the Unhate Foundation, show various world leaders kissing on the mouth.

The Italian clothing company Benetton has been heavily criticized by the Vatican for using an image of Pope Benedict kissing an imam on the mouth in its latest shock advertising campaign

The Italian clothing company Benetton has been heavily criticized by the Vatican for using an image of Pope Benedict kissing an imam on the mouth in its latest shock advertising campaign

 

The campaign includes a picture of U.S. President Barack Obama kissing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi called the unauthorized and “manipulative” use of the pope’s picture in the photo montage “totally unacceptable” and suggested it might take legal action against the company.

“This is a grave lack of respect for the Pope, an offence against the sentiments of the faithful and a clear example of how advertising can violate elementary rules of respect for people in order to attract attention through provocation,” Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

Benetton campaign includes a picture of U.S. President Barack Obama kissing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Benetton campaign includes a picture of U.S. President Barack Obama kissing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Benetton has run controversial advertising campaigns in the past, including one that showed grieving parents at the bedside of a man dying of Aids.

Other images in the latest campaign include Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel kissing French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in a clinch with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The latest Benetton campaign includes a image of Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel kissing French president Nicolas Sarkozy

The latest Benetton campaign includes a image of Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel kissing French president Nicolas Sarkozy

 

Benetton says it hopes the campaign will held contribute towards combating hatred and lead to the creation of a culture of tolerance.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Alessandro Benetton, deputy chairman of Benetton Group SpA and son of the founder of the family-controlled company, said: “It means not hating. In a moment of darkness, with the financial crisis, what’s going on in North African countries, in Athens, this is an attitude we can all embrace that can have positive energy.”

Benetton is planning a series of live events in which youngsters will post the controversial images on the walls of locations of cities around the world.

 

The US Major League baseball player, Wilson Ramos, who was kidnapped by armed men, has been found alive, according to Venezuela’s government officials.

According to Information Minister Andres Izarra, security forces had located Wilson Ramos in the Montalban mountains near to where he was seized on Wednesday.

Wilson Ramos, 24, is a catcher for the Washington Nationals team.

It was reported that the families of wealthy athletes in Venezuela are periodically targeted in similar ways.

“The baseball player Ramos found alive by security forces in mountainous zone,” tweeted Andres Izarra.

The US Major League baseball player, Wilson Ramos, who was kidnapped by armed men, has been found alive

The US Major League baseball player, Wilson Ramos, who was kidnapped by armed men, has been found alive

Andres Izarra said it was “a rescue operation by air”, which was authorized earlier in the day by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Information Minister said three men were arrested, including a Colombian “linked to paramilitary groups and to kidnapping groups”.

Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said on TV that Wilson Ramos was “safe and sound”.

Wilson Ramos’ mother celebrated, exclaiming on television: “Thanks to God!”

The woman said she had spoken to her son by telephone, saying: “He’s fine.”

There are so far no details of how Wilson Ramos was located.

The baseball player was seized at his mother’s home in Valencia, 150 km (90 miles) west of the capital Caracas, after going to Venezuela to play games during the US close season.

Sports figures have found themselves the target of violent crime in Venezuela in the past, but this is thought to be the first case targeting a baseball player in the US Major League.

Most kidnappings in Venezuela are carried out to extort a ransom, but there have been no reports of any ransom demand in this case.

The Institute for Investigations on Coexistence and Citizen Security (Incosec), a Venezuelan think tank, estimated that last year Venezuela saw 1,179 kidnappings, or about three cases every day.

The rising rate of violent crime has become a major source of public concern in Venezuela in recent years, with many accusing President Hugo Chavez’s government of not doing enough to combat the problem.

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