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Chile's Pinera praises Hugo Chavez's courage

Sunday - 1/27/2013, 6:45pm  ET

By MICHAEL WARREN
Associated Press

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) - Chilean President Sebastian Pinera warmly praised Hugo Chavez on Sunday, crediting the Venezuelan leader's "vision, tenacity and strength" for forging the alliance of Latin American and Caribbean leaders that was able to meet European leaders as equals this weekend.

"We're all praying so that he can win a battle, perhaps the toughest battle of his life, and that he's doing it with this strength and courage that he's always showed, to recover his health," Pinera said to applause from Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro and other leaders.

Venezuelan officials have released limited information about the cancer and condition of their charismatic leader, who has been an outsized presence at many other summits. He remains in Havana receiving treatment after his fourth operation.

Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said he brought a signed message from Chavez to the summit. The delegation has yet to reveal its contents, but Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said Sunday that the important thing is that "his signature is on it."

"That is Chavez writing, the same Chavez as ever, who is alive and battling for his health, and at the same time is battling for the construction of a better, more equal world," Villegas said. "Chavez is alive; he's governing the country."

Villegas said the letter, laying out Chavez's vision for regional integration, would be read by Maduro on Monday, when Pinera hands over the CELAC presidency to Cuban President Raul Castro.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)