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Venezuela’s Chavez walks after cancer surgery

CARACAS — Vice President Nicolas Maduro surprised Venezuelans with a Christmas Eve announcement that President Hugo Chavez is up and walking two weeks after cancer surgery in Cuba, but the news did little to ease uncertainty surrounding the leader’s condition.

Maduro told state television Venezolana de Television that he had spoken by phone with Chavez for 20 minutes Monday night. It was the first time a top Venezuelan government official had confirmed talking with Chavez since the Dec. 11 operation, his fourth cancer surgery since 2011.

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‘‘He was in a good mood,’’ Maduro said. ‘‘He was walking, he was exercising.’’

Yet the statement inspired more questions, given the sparse information the Venezuelan government has provided about Chavez’s cancer.

Chavez supporters reacted with relief, but the statement inspired more questions, given the sparse information the Venezuelan government has provided about the president’s cancer. Chavez has kept secret various details about his illness, including the precise location of the tumors and the type of cancer. His long-term prognosis remains a mystery.

Dr. Michael Pishvaian, an oncologist at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, said it was an encouraging sign that Chavez was walking, and it indicated he would be able to return to Venezuela relatively soon. But he said the long-term outlook remained poor.

Pishvaian and other outside doctors have said that given the details Chavez has provided about his cancer, it is most likely a soft-tissue sarcoma.

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