Venezuela issues new photos of Hugo Chávez

President shown with daughters in first official release of photos since he underwent further cancer-related surgery in Cuba

The Venezuelan government has released photographs of Hugo Chávezand said the ailing leader was conscious and performing his presidential duties.

The photographs, made public by the minister of science and Chávez's son-in-law, Jorge Arreaza, showed a smiling Chávez lying side by side with his two eldest daughters and holding Thursday's edition of the Cuban daily Granma.

It is the first time the government has released images of the president since he flew to Cuba to undergo his fourth cancer-related surgery.

"After two months of a complicated post-surgical recovery, the patient remains conscious, with the integrity of his intellectual functions, in close communication with his government team and ahead of the fundamental tasks that are inherent to his post," said Ernesto Villegas, the information minister.

He said Chávez continued to suffer from a respiratory deficiency and was breathing with the aid of tube that "temporarily hinders his ability to speak".

Days earlier the Spanish newspaper ABC reported that Chávez was unable to speak or move from his bed. In the past, senior government officials have accused ABC and other media outlets of being part of a rightwing conspiracy to destabilise the government.

No further information was given on Chávez's prognosis. Villegas said the president continued to receive "energetic treatment for the base illness", and the treatment was not without risks.

Chávez has been away from Venezuela since 10 December but is in full control of his presidential duties, according to a supreme court ruling.

Villegas did not announce an expected date of return but said he remained confident that Chávez would overcome his difficulties "sooner rather than later".

Virginia Lopez in Caracas

The GuardianTramp

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