CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuela called off a regional summit due to Hugo Chavez’s unexpectedly longer recovery from surgery in Cuba, hours after releasing video on Wednesday of the socialist leader chatting with Fidel Castro.
The cancellation was a big blow for supporters of the charismatic but authoritarian Venezuelan president, who had hoped return to host the July 5-6 meeting, which coincides with the South American nation’s 200th anniversary of independence.
Chavez, 56, likes to grandstand at big events and had been planning a national party, with various heads of state in tow.
His government said the meeting of Latin American and Caribbean leaders was off for “force majeure” reasons. “Comandante Hugo Chavez Frias is in the middle of a process of recovery and extremely strict medical treatment,” it said.
The statement said the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit would be rescheduled for the second half of the year.
In the new video footage released earlier on Wednesday, Chavez appeared back to his chatty self in an encounter in Cuba with Castro, his close friend and political mentor, aimed at tempering rumors he is seriously ill.
Chavez’s absence has convulsed politics at home and spawned a frenzy of speculation over the future of his “revolution”.
Unlike brief extracts shown before, Chavez was heard talking this time, discussing regional politics and stories in Tuesday’s edition of the Cuban Communist Party daily Granma.
“Look how Fidel is reading, without spectacles. Me, too, though with a bit of trouble!” an animated-looking Chavez joked with the 84-year-old Castro after the pair were seen strolling in a garden, presumed to be at Havana’s Cimeq hospital.
Chavez, who has become one of the world’s best-known but controversial leaders during his 12 years in power,
disappeared from public view after surgery in Cuba
on June 10.