16 Feb 2013

First Chavez images released since surgery

10:02 pm on 16 February 2013

The first images of Venezuela's leader Hugo Chavez seen since he underwent cancer surgery have been broadcast by the government.

There has been widespread speculation in Venezuela about Mr Chavez's condition, with some students holding protests outside the Cuban embassy in Caracas, demanding to know his state of health, the BBC reports.

The 58-year-old is shown smiling as he lies in bed reading a newspaper, with his two daughters at his side.

In some of the photos broadcast on television, Mr Chavez is shown looking at Thursday's issue of the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma.

The government said the photos were taken on Thursday night.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said that as the Venezuelan leader was breathing through a tracheal tube, it was difficult for him to speak.

Mr Chavez has not been seen in public since he went to Havana for surgery last year, on 11 December.

It was his fourth operation in an 18-month period for cancer first diagnosed in mid-2011.