CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez is in full control of his mental faculties and has been talking with his children and getting daily visits from Fidel Castro while recovering slowly from cancer surgery in Cuba, his son-in-law said Saturday.
Chavez has making recovering favorably despite some "moments of tension" after Tuesday's surgery and is now in a "process of stabilization," Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza said on Venezuelan television in a phone call from Havana.
Castro has seen Chavez every day since the surgery, Arreaza said.
"He always stops by to personally find out about El Comandante's health condition and also to share his knowledge with all of us, and to give the family courage and encouragement," Arreaza said.
Throughout his presidency, Chavez has had a close friendship with the former Cuban president, describing him as being like a father and mentor.
The 58-year-old Venezuelan leader underwent his fourth cancer-related operation after tests found the illness had come back despite previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Throughout his treatments in Cuba, Chavez has kept secret some details about his pelvic cancer, including the exact location and type of tumors removed.
Venezuela's government has said Chavez suffered complications during a complicated six-hour surgery but has since been recovering progressively.
Arreaza, who is the husband of Chavez's eldest daughter, Rosa, said there had been "moments of tension, above all on (December) 11 and 12, but we've overcome them one by one."
"The president has begun to communicate with his close relatives," he said.
Arreaza said that as Chavez began to speak, he told him of "his deep love for his people."
The leftist president won re-election in October and is scheduled to be sworn in for a new six-year term Jan. 10. Information Minister Ernesto Villegas expressed hope this week that Chavez would return for the swearing-in, but he also acknowledged that it's possible the president might not be well enough to be back in time.
"El Comandante has fought a great battle, and, as he told us, he will overcome each of these moments little by little. He's getting better," Arreaza said.
Chavez also called for his supporters to vote in Venezuela's gubernatorial elections Sunday, Arreaza said.
"He is now completely in full intellectual conditions to send this message to the Venezuela," Arreaza added.
The science minister's phone call became the centerpiece of a televised ceremony in downtown Caracas attended by Vice President Nicolas Maduro and other top Venezuelan officials as well as visiting leaders from Bolivia and other countries.
"Praying together, we're going to achieve the miracle," Maduro said.
Chavez's daughter Maria thanked supporters for their prayers in a message on her Twitter account.
"We are continuing to battle along with papa," she said, expressing trust in "the hand of God."