Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is recovering after a successful cancer operation in Cuba, his vice president said.
Nicolas Maduro said the surgery was “complex” but successful. He made the announcement on Venezuelan television, flanked by other Chavez aides and military commanders.
It was the fourth cancer-related operation Mr Chavez has had since June last year.
Three days before the surgery, he announced he needed surgery again after tests showed “some malignant cells” had reappeared in the same area of his pelvic region where tumours were previously removed.
During the surgery, Chavez ally Tareck El Aissami said on television: “Everything is going well.”
On the streets of Caracas, Venezuelans on both sides of the country’s deep political divide voiced concerns about Mr Chavez’s condition and what might happen if he ultimately does not survive his illness.
“It’s difficult to think about Venezuela without Chavez,” said Rafael Perdomo, a mechanic who has supported the president since 1998, when he first ran for the presidency. “I fear that we, the poor, could lose everything if Chavez dies.”
Mr Chavez recently said for the first time that if his illness cuts short his presidency, Mr Maduro should take his place and be elected president to continue on with his socialist movement.
Some government supporters held a prayer meeting in a Caracas plaza while the operation was under way, joining hands and singing hymns. Some held up posters of Mr Chavez as they sang.
Others Venezuelans said that while they are sorry about his health situation and wish him the best, it is not a particular concern for them. Many were out buying Christmas gifts and shopping for food ahead as they prepared for the holiday season.
Mr Chavez received a flurry of get-well messages from leaders across Latin America, including the presidents of Chile, Peru and other countries. Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa, who visited Mr Chavez in Havana on Monday, said his ally was undergoing a “very delicate operation”.
“He’s passing through one of the hardest moments of his life. Our heart and our solidarity are with a historic president,” Mr Correa said at an event Tuesday in the Ecuadorean city of Tulcan.
Mr Chavez had said the surgery would present risks, but afterward Mr Maduro said Mr Chavez had been moved to a room to recover and begin “special treatments”.