Hugo Chavez asked questions of his aides during Cuba visit, Venezuelan VP says

CARACAS, Venezuela Venezuela's vice president said Tuesday that President Hugo Chavez has been making progress in his treatment for a severe respiratory infection and asked questions of his aides during a visit in Cuba.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on television that he and other officials including Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez met with Chavez on Monday. Maduro said they provided him with an update on "the government in a new stage" and other matters.

"He asked our friend Rafael Ramirez about (certain) aspects, each one his element," Maduro said in a televised meeting with state governors. "Our commander is climbing the hill, he's advancing, and that fills us with great happiness."

Maduro expressed gratitude to Chavez's medical team. He didn't give details but said that Chavez "is in battle."

Chavez, who was re-elected in October, has not made any public comments since before his latest cancer surgery in Cuba on Dec. 11. He has been fighting an unspecified type of pelvic cancer, and his long silence has fed speculation about why he has apparently been unable to address the country by phone on television, as he has during past treatment in Cuba.

Maduro addressed a gathering of state governors in Caracas after returning from Cuba along with Ramirez, Attorney General Cilia Flores and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello.

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