CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chávez is experiencing the "best moment" yet of his recovery from cancer surgery, Vice President Nicolás Maduro said Saturday.
He emphatically added that Mr. Chávez would return to Venezuela take charge of the government again.
Mr. Maduro spoke on his return from Cuba, where Mr. Chávez had surgery on Dec. 11.
"The commander is in the best moment that we have seen him in all these days of struggle and battle," Mr. Maduro said. "He is smiling, he has a look full of light, he has a special illumination in his thought."
Mr. Maduro said that Mr. Chávez had asked him to deliver a brief message to Venezuelans.
"He said tell the people that he is optimistic and has lots of faith in what we're doing," Mr. Maduro said, adding that Mr. Chávez was referring to his medical treatment. He said the president was "holding tight to Christ and to life."
He went on to predict Mr. Chávez's return, but did not say when that might occur.
"This blessed land of the Liberator will see our commander president, it will see him, in his time, in his time it will see him here," Mr. Maduro said. "We're going to have him, as he should be, as president, in charge of our country."
Mr. Chávez has not been seen since his surgery last month. Unlike the president's previous trips to Cuba for treatment, this time there have been no photographs or videos or television appearances, and Mr. Chávez has not called in to government run television programs to make his voice heard.
The political opposition has demanded more information about his condition and has asked for a team of medical experts to travel to Cuba to get an update on his health, but the government has rebuffed those requests.
Mr. Chávez has refused to say what kind of cancer he has or exactly where it was found in his body. Government officials have not offered many details about his most recent cancer surgery, his fourth since June 2011. But on Saturday, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said that the purpose of the surgery was "to remove a malignant lesion in the pelvis." He added that Mr. Chávez had overcome a severe lung infection that occurred after the surgery and was now receiving additional medical treatment, which he did not describe.
Mr. Chávez, who was re-elected in October, was unable to return to Venezuela for the inauguration for his new term, which began Jan. 10. The long absence has plunged the country into uncertainty and has led many to question whether he will be able to regain his health and continue as president.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.