Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is making steady progress after cancer surgery in Cuba and the respiratory infection he developed earlier in the week has been contained, AFP reports citing aides.
"He's well, he's conscious," said Vice President Nicolas Maduro, speaking to dozens of supporters at the swearing-in ceremony for the newly-elected governor of the central state of Guarico.
Maduro, Chavez's handpicked successor, said the Venezuelan president had expressed "great happiness and profound gratitude to the entire Venezuelan people nation" for their support during his most recent health crisis.
"In recent days we have had moments of worry, uncertainty and pain... because a leader like Hugo Chavez comes along just once every 200 years," the vice president said.
Chavez underwent cancer surgery on December 11, scarcely a day-and-a-half after revealing to his stunned countrymen that his cancer had returned and just two months after his triumphant re-election to a six-year term.
The fiery populist leader, who was first diagnosed with the disease in June 2011, had assured Venezuelans that he was cancer-free after three surgeries and debilitating rounds of chemo and radiation therapy.
Significant aspects of his condition -- including the type, location and severity of his cancer -- have been kept secret over the past 18 months, fueling rumors and uncertainty about Venezuela's future.