Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez was reported to have regained consciousness after his cancer operation, but was said to be aware his condition was "complex." The opposition is accused of spreading lies about his health.
Chavez's handpicked successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, said in a televised message on Tuesday that the 58-year-old leader was fully aware of his situation.
Maduro expressed confidence that Chavez would recover "sooner rather than later," and dismissed social media rumours about the president's health – that he was dead or on a life-support machine - as being politically motivated.
"What is behind the ill-intentioned rumors? It is the evil and hatred of the enemies of Venezuela," he said. "They are people who anybody could describe as mentally ill, sick with hatred, sick with evil."
In an interview from Havana with the Latin American cable news channel Telesur, Maduro said he had spoken to Chavez twice in the last three days.
"He is absolutely aware of how complex the post-operative condition is," Maduro said.
"The whole time we are awaiting a positive outcome. At times there have been slight improvements, at times there have been stationary situations."
With Chavez due to be sworn in as president on January 10, there have been doubts about whether he will actually be able to attend. Under the constitution, new elections should be called within 30 days if the leader dies or is incapacitated ahead of his inauguration.
Doctors in Cuba first found a cancer in Chavez's pelvic region in June 2011. Since then he has undergone four rounds of surgery; as well as courses of chemo- and radiotherapy. However, the precise nature of the cancer - as well as the prognosis - have not been revealed.
rc/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)