In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez , left, speaks beside his Vice-President Nicolas during a televised speech form his office at Miraflores Presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office, Marcelo Garcia)

In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez , left, speaks beside his Vice-President Nicolas during a televised speech form his office at Miraflores Presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office, Marcelo Garcia)

VP reads message from ailing Chavez to military

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — In a message read by his No. 2, President Hugo Chavez saluted Venezuela’s military and acknowledged he was facing “complicated and difficult” times as he recovers from cancer surgery in Cuba.

The message read by Vice President Nicolas Maduro during a military event in eastern Venezuela offered no details on Chavez’s condition and it was unclear when the president composed it. Chavez, 58, has not been seen or heard from since undergoing his fourth cancer-related surgery in Havana on Dec. 11.

“I have had to battle again for my health,” the president said in the message. He expressed “complete faith in the commitment and loyalty that the revolutionary armed forces are showing me in this very complicated and difficult moment.”

There have been no new updates on Chavez’s condition since Maduro announced Monday night that he had received a phone call from the president who was up and walking.

Maduro and other government officials have tried to drill optimism into their supporters at raucous events nearly every day since. But uncertainty about Venezuela’s political future has grown with no guarantee that Chavez will be back in time for his scheduled Jan. 10 inauguration for a new six-year term.

A group of opposition candidates demanded Friday that Maduro provide an official medical report on Chavez’s health. Lawmaker Dinorah Figuera said the country needs “a medical report from those who are responsible for the diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of the president.”

“The Venezuelan people deserve official and institutional information,” Figuera told Venezuelan media.

Before leaving for Cuba, Chavez acknowledged the precariousness of his situation and designated Maduro his successor, telling supporters they should vote for the vice president if new elections are necessary.

But a legal fight is brewing over what should happen if Chavez, who was re-elected in October, cannot return in time for the inauguration before the National Assembly.

National Assembly Diosdado Cabello insisted Monday that the Venezuelan Constitution allows the president to take the oath before the Supreme Court at any time if he cannot do it before the legislature on Jan. 10.

Opposition leaders argue the constitution requires that new elections be held within 30 days if Chavez cannot take office Jan. 10. They have criticized the confusion over the inauguration as the latest example of the Chavez government’s disdain for democratic rule of law and have demanded clarity on whether the president is fit to govern.

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