Talk to us, Venezuela's Capriles urges Chavez

CARACAS Wed Jan 16, 2013 10:39pm GMT

1 of 2. A supporter of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez wears a hat with an image of President Hugo Chavez outside the national assembly, while vice president Nicolas Maduro delivers the state of nation, in Caracas January 15, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jorge Silva

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CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, called Wednesday for a proof of life from ailing President Hugo Chavez who has not been seen since cancer surgery in Cuba five weeks ago.

Chavez's signature appeared in the government's official gazette on Wednesday decreeing his new foreign minister - though the document wrongly placed him in Caracas.

"If the president of the republic can sign decrees, I call on him to show himself, to talk to Venezuela," Capriles said at his inauguration for a new term as Miranda state governor.

"He should tell us everything that's happening in government because what we have in Venezuela is misgovernment."

Officials say Chavez, 58, is improving despite his grave situation after a fourth operation on December 11 for a cancer first detected in the pelvic area in mid-2011.

Many Venezuelans suspect, however, that he could be dying or unable to return to active rule after 14 years at the helm of the South American OPEC member of 29 million people.

Stirring the national guessing-game over Chavez's condition, the appearance of his signature had Venezuelans wondering whether the president had signed the decree from his hospital room or if officials might have scanned an old one.

Allies insist Chavez remains in charge and is giving instructions from Cuba, though that infuriates the opposition who fume that Venezuela's capital has become Havana.

Should Chavez step down or die, triggering an election, Capriles, 40, is likely to stand again for president after defeat in October last year. He would face a stiff fight against Chavez's chosen successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro.

(Writing by Andrew Cawthorne, Editing by Girish Gupta and Cynthia Osterman)

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