CARACAS, Venezuela Venezuela's vice president said Wednesday that President Hugo Chavez will face a "complex and hard" process after undergoing his fourth cancer-related operation in Cuba.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro made the announcement a day after Chavez's surgery.
"It was a complex, difficult, delicate operation," Maduro said, adding that indicates "the post-operative process is also going to be a complex and hard process."
The vice president, whom Chavez named over the weekend as his chosen political heir, was flanked by National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez, who had accompanied the president in Havana during the surgery.
Maduro said Cabello and Ramirez had returned to Caracas at 3 a.m. and that they had talked about the situation until daybreak.
Maduro had a sad expression as he spoke, and his voice was hoarse and cracked at times.
He called for Venezuelans to calmly face what he also described as "hard, complex and difficult days" that lie ahead. He also called for unity in the country as it faces "complex and difficult scenarios."
Before Maduro's appearance, state television showed a Mass where the president's supporters prayed for him.
Three days before the operation, Chavez announced that he needed to have surgery again after tests showed "some malignant cells" had reappeared in the same area of his pelvic region where tumors were previously removed.
Chavez said beforehand that the surgery would present risks. He said on Saturday for the first time that if illness cuts short his presidency, Maduro should take his place and be elected president to continue on with his socialist movement.
The 58-year-old president won re-election in October and is due to be sworn in for a new six-year term on Jan. 10. If Chavez were to die, the constitution says that new elections should be called and held within 30 days.
Chavez first announced he had been diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. He underwent a surgery for a pelvic abscess, and then had a baseball-sized tumor removed. In February, he underwent another surgery when a tumor reappeared in the same area.
He has also undergone months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Throughout his treatments in Cuba, Chavez has kept secret some details of his illness, including the exact location and type of the tumors.