[Updated at 5:45 p.m. ET] Medical treatment in Cuba will keep Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez from being sworn in for a new term this week, a top official said Tuesday.
At the same time, supporters and opponents of Chavez – who has been undergoing cancer treatment in Cuba for the past month – are bracing for a legal battle over whether the inauguration can be postponed.
Venezuela's vice president said in a statement Tuesday that the inauguration would occur before the country's Supreme Court at a "later date," hours after the opposition called on the nation's top court to decide whether that's possible.
It appears as thought Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is making progress in his recovery, but it will take a while for him to get back to full strength after surgery.
Communication Minister Ernesto Villegas said Thursday Chavez is making a progressive recovery but he'll need time to recuperate due to the complexity of the operation he underwent and complications due to a hemorrhage that was treated.
Chavez responded positively to the treatment and will need further treatments to fully recover, Villegas said in a statement broadcast on Venezuelan state television.
We've just gotten new details about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's surgery from the country's vice president.
Chavez will face a "complex and difficult" recovery after the surgery he had for cancer, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said.
Maduro asked Venezuelans to remain united and pray for Chavez.
You can read more about the surgery and the president's condition here.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived Monday in Cuba for surgery just days after saying his cancer had returned.
State-run VTV showed Chavez embracing Vice President Nicolas Maduro and other top Venezuelan officials before his plane took off early Monday.
On Saturday, Chavez announced that his cancer had returned and said he wanted Maduro to replace him if "something were to happen that would incapacitate me."
Cuba has stepped up efforts to douse speculation over the health of its former leader Fidel Castro by publishing an article under his name in state-run media in which he scoffs at recent rumors and those who circulated them.
The article, published on the official website Cubadebate early Monday, is accompanied by photos of Castro, 86, walking with a cane in a garden and looking at a copy of Granma, the state-run newspaper.
"I don't even remember what a headache is," Castro writes in the article, saying the photos are "proof of what liars" those responsible for the rumors are.
The article comes after a former Venezuelan vice president said Sunday that Castro was "doing very well" and showed reporters a snapshot of the former Cuban leader that he said was taken the day before.
Speculation has surged over Castro's health in recent weeks. He has not been seen publicly since March, when he met with Pope Benedict XVI during the pontiff's visit to Cuba.
Hugo Chavez has won re-election to a new six- year term as president of Venezuela, according to results released late Sunday.
That means we can expect more colorful quotes such as these from the man who has been Venezuela's president since 1999.
In 2006, appearing at the U.N. General Assembly after President George W. Bush spoke there a day earlier, he had this to say:
"The devil came here yesterday, and it smells of sulfur still today."
According to a CNN report, Chavez said, "As the spokesman of imperialism, he came to share his nostrums to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world. An Alfred Hitchcock movie could use it as a scenario. I would even propose a title: 'The Devil's Recipe.' "
That wasn't his first time equating things and people American with mythical evil beings. In 2005, he criticized the U.S. tradition of Halloween for "putting fear into other nations, putting fear into their own people."
Survival International, the nonprofit that pushed last month for Venezuelan officials to investigate reports of a massacre in an Amazon indigenous community, said Monday that it now believes there was no attack by miners there.
"Having received its own testimony from confidential sources, Survival now believes there was no attack by miners on the Yanomami community of Irotatheri," said Stephen Corry, director of Survival International.
Venezuela to investigate reports of massacre of Indians by gold miners
CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) - Authorities are investigating the kidnapping of a Costa Rican diplomat in Venezuela, officials said Monday.
Guillermo Cholele, an official at the Costa Rican Embassy in Caracas, was kidnapped when he was on his way home Sunday night, Costa Rica's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
A call to the diplomat's home requested money in exchange for his release and said Cholele was in good condition, the ministry said.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez flew to Cuba early Sunday morning for another round of radiation treatment.
He was greeted at the Jose Marti International Airport, southwest of Havana, by Cuban leader Raul Castro with whom "he maintained a lively exchange," Cuba's state-run Juventud Rebelde newspaper said.
The 57-year-old president has not specified the type of cancer he is battling, and the government has released few specifics - fueling widespread speculation about his health and political future.
On Thursday, he returned home to Venezuela from a second round of treatment - and spent the weekend there.
So far this year, Chavez has spent 34 days in Havana.
Speaking at a Mass in his home state of Barinas on Thursday night, he teared up at times as he discussed his struggle with illness.
"Christ ... give me life, because I still have things to do for the people and this country. Do not take me yet," he said.
Chavez described cancer as "a true threat that marks the end of the path for many people. The end of the physical path, that's the truth."
President Hugo Chavez returned to Venezuela early Thursday morning, after a second round of radiation treatment in Cuba.
Appearing healthy and walking unaided, Chavez held court on the tarmac of the airport in Barinas, telling well-wishers who had gathered to welcome him that his treatment went well.
Chavez has been in Cuba since March 25. He began a phase of radiation treatment the next day. Doctors in the Caribbean island nation have operated on him twice to remove cancerous tumors, Chavez has said.
The 57-year-old president has not specified the type of cancer he is battling, and the government has released few specifics, fueling widespread speculation about his health and political future.
The outspoken, flamboyant socialist leader has led Venezuela since 1999 and has pledged to run for re-election in October.
Venezuela's foreign ministry said Wednesday that Chavez spoke about his health in a lengthy phone conversation the day before with former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, who recently announced that his own cancer had gone into remission.
"President Chavez told his brother Lula that the treatment is going very well, and so is the political and economic situation of Venezuela," Venezuela's foreign ministry said in a statement summarizing the phone conversation.
Venezuelan voters hoping for an end to Hugo Chavez's presidency head to the polls Sunday to pick a candidate to compete against him.
The five opposition candidates vying for a spot on the ballot have agreed on one thing: supporting whoever wins the primary.
The unified front could be a key weapon in the political battle leading up to October's presidential election, analysts say.
"The opposition realized that if they are not united, if they divide the vote, they can never beat Chavez," said Federico Welsch, a political science professor at the Simon Bolivar University in Caracas. "After Sunday, President Chavez will have an adversary with a face and a name. ... This time it seems like the opposition has a real possibility of winning. It's not a very high probability, but there's a chance."
Chavez's supporters have slammed the opposition coalition, saying there's no doubt the incumbent president will triumph in October.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad heads to Nicaragua on Tuesday, the second stop of his five-day tour of Latin American countries.
There, he will attend the inauguration of President Daniel Ortega, who cruised to a third term in November amidst allegations of voter irregularities.
Accompanying Ahmadinejad will be Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, with whom he met Monday to pledge closer cooperation between their two nations.
Venezuela was the first stop in Ahmadinejad's tour, which was not altogether coincidental.
Despite their cultural differences, Venezuela and Iran have found significant common ground: Both are among the world's top crude oil exporters, and their leaders are strong allies united by a fierce opposition to what they describe as U.S. imperialism.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Venezuela on Sunday, his first stop on a four-nation trip to Latin America meant to strengthen ties between Iran and the region.
He arrived about 6:30 p.m. ET, and was met at the airport by Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua.
Ahmadinejad walked off the plane and down a red carpet, flanked by officials in white uniforms, images on state television showed.
It's no coincidence that Venezuela is Ahmadinejad's first stop. Despite their cultural differences, Venezuela and Iran have found significant common ground: both are among the world's top crude oil exporters, and their leaders have become strong allies united by a fierce opposition to what they view as U.S. imperialism.
Venezuela's consul general in Miami has been declared to be persona non grata and must leave the United States, a State Department official said Sunday.
The official declined to comment on specific details behind the decision to expel Consul General Livia Acosta Noguera.
Acosta must depart the United States by Tuesday, the official said.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has tapped a leading general accused by the United States of being a drug "kingpin" to be the country's new defense minister.
Gen. Henry Rangel Silva will replace Carlos Mata Figueroa, according to the state-run AVN news agency. Chavez, who called Rangel a "good soldier," made the announcement Friday in the central city of Guanare, the agency reported.
The United States added Rangel to its kingpin list in 2008 for allegedly providing support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, commonly known as the FARC.
It's the type of plot that defense hawks in the United States warn about: a potential cyberattack against the U.S. government orchestrated by none other than Venezuela, Iran and Cuba, with the help of a group of Mexican leftists.
The U.S.-based Spanish-language network Univision recently aired an investigative documentary alleging that Venezuelan and Iranian diplomats were interested in an offer from a group of Mexican hackers to infiltrate the websites of the White House, FBI, Pentagon and U.S. nuclear sites.
But the hackers were university students recruited to do the dirty work who decided instead to document the evidence to disrupt the plot, the documentary reported.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has called the report "lies." And one of the Iranian diplomats told Univision he indeed was presented with a hacking plot by the Mexican group but turned it down in part because he thought they were CIA agents.
The evidence that the plot was real, according to Univision, are secret recordings with diplomats who ask questions about what the hackers can do and promise to send information to their governments.
The United States said it did not know about the alleged plot but that it found the Univision allegations "very disturbing."
A couple on a motorcycle fired shots into a bus carrying Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Maria Corina Machado and her supporters Saturday, a campaign spokesman told CNN en Español.
No one was injured in the incident, which happened on the east side of the capital, Caracas, according to Alfredo Mesa from Machado's campaign.
Machado is one of several presidential candidates who will participate in a primary in February. The winner will be the unity opposition candidate to run against President Hugo Chavez.
Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos has been "found alive" after he was reported kidnapped, Venezuelan state TV reported Friday.
Gunmen kidnapped Major League Baseball catcher Wilson Ramos from his family home in Venezuela Wednesday night, a spokeswoman for his Venezuelan team said on her Twitter account.
Ramos, who finished his rookie season with the Washington Nationals this year, was back in his home country playing for the Aragua Tigers in Venezuela's winter league.
The Nationals could not confirm the kidnapping, but published a statement citing Tiger's spokeswoman Kathe Vilera.
[Updated at 3:53 p.m. ET] Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday he called and sent a letter to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asking for the release of detained American hikers at the behest of actor Sean Penn.
Americans Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were released from an Iranian prison last week, after 781 days in captivity.
Chavez said he considers Penn a friend, and after the two spoke about the hikers, he agreed to add his voice directly with the Iranian president.
"If this call and message helped a little, I am glad. Even if it didn't," he said.
Fattal, Bauer and Bauer's now-fiancee, Sarah Shourd, were arrested in July 2009, with Iran saying they strayed across the unmarked border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran. Shourd was released in 2010.
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