Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has received a visit from Fidel Castro and his brother Raoul, as he recovers from his latest surgery in hospital in Cuba.
The first post-op pictures of Chavez, published on Twitter by Venezuela's Information Minister, Andres Izarra, show him in discussion with Cuba's former leader during a visit that reportedly lasted two hours.
Chavez, 57, was also pictured walking around the hospital, smiling broadly and dressed in a tracksuit.
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Izarra said the photos, taken Friday afternoon, were evidence that Chavez was making a "clear and rapid recovery," Reuters reported.
Since his operation Monday night, Chavez addressed Venezuelans in phone calls to state television, the BBC said, during which he assured them he was returning to health.
"I cannot neglect my recuperation treatment for even a minute,'' he said. "I continue recovering, thanks to Venezuela's support, the Cuban people, the doctors here in Cuba, to the love from the people that fills me."
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Chavez has not publicly confirmed whether the growth removed from his pelvic region this week was cancerous. It was detected in the same area where a tumor of the intestine was cut out last year.
Some Venezuelans are skeptical of the government's efforts to portray the president's health as improving, months before he attempts to win re-election in October.
"They always distort the truth," street vendor Ana Maria Fernandez told the Associated Press in Caracas. "He's suffering, and that's why he's not appearing on television, demonstrating that he's recovering."
Chavez himself has admitted that his health will probably affect the way he carries out his duties, GlobalPost correspondent Girish Gupta reported earlier this week:
Behind the gung-ho image portrayed by the paratrooper-turned-president, however, is a sense of fear that has not been seen before during his 13 years in power. "I'm not going to be able to continue with the same rhythm," he said before he left for Cuba. "I'm a human being. I’m not immortal."
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