CARACAS — The world got its first glimpse of Hugo Chavez since he underwent a fourth cancer-related surgery in Cuba more than two months ago, with photos released Friday showing the Venezuelan leader alongside his daughters in Havana.
Along with images of a puffy-faced Chavez came a government explanation for why no one has heard from the longtime president since his surgery: He is breathing through a tracheal tube that makes speech difficult.
Chavez’s government described his condition as ‘‘delicate’’ and said he continues to undergo ‘‘vigorous treatment for his fundamental illness.’’ The images and new details filled a vacuum of information about Chavez’s condition that has spurred rampant speculation in Venezuela. Government officials say Chavez has been recovering in Cuba since undergoing cancer surgery on Dec. 11.
The four photos show Chavez reclining on what appears to be a bed, a blue pillow behind his head. He smiles broadly, while his daughters Rosa and Maria lean in close to him.
Three of the images show Chavez looking at Thursday’s issue of the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma, his daughters still flanking him. Chavez’s son-in-law, Jorge Arreaza, the science and technology minister, showed the photos on Venezuelan state television.
Speculation has been widespread in Venezuela about Chavez’s condition, with the president not publicly seen or heard from since he left for Cuba on Dec. 10. During previous treatments in Havana, Chavez spoke on Venezuelan TV or appeared in photos.