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President Chavez appears on TV, announces China to grant Venezuela $4 billion development loan
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) ' Hugo Chavez made a brief appearance Saturday to announce a big loan from China, speaking just hours after the vice president said Venezuela's leader is undergoing "rigorous treatment" after cancer surgery.
Chavez said Venezuela will soon receive a $4 billion loan from China to boost joint development projects between the increasingly close international allies.
The money will finance projects such as railways in this South American country, Chavez said during a Cabinet meeting that was broadcast live on state television. Venezuela will put $2 billion of its own into the projects, he said.
Chavez gave few details of the agreement. The live broadcast was suddenly cut when Chavez noted that Venezuela's national soccer team was playing a tight game against Ecuador in the regional Copa America tournament.
Earlier in the day, Vice President Elias Jaua said Chavez has been receiving "rigorous treatment" as he recovers from surgery in Cuba to remove a cancerous tumor.
Chavez had not appeared publicly on Friday, following a busy Thursday in which he addressed troops and spoke to a Cabinet meeting for an hour and a half.
"The president is moving along in his process. It's a delicate process," Jaua said on television after an event at the National Assembly in honor of the nation's bicentennial.
Jaua said it is "a rigorous treatment, and the entire nation has to accompany him to comply with his treatment."
Chavez has said he underwent surgery in Cuba on June 20 to remove a cancerous tumor. The foreign minister said it was extracted from the same part of the "pelvic region" where Chavez had an abscess removed nine days earlier.
Chavez hasn't said what type of cancer is involved nor whether he is receiving chemotherapy, radiation or other treatments. Chavez has said he has stitches on his abdomen from the operation.
Chavez has slowed his normally fast paced daily agenda in recent weeks, and the normally loquacious leader has limited the length of his speeches on orders from his doctors.
Russ Dallen, head of Caracas capital markets for BBO investment bank, said the announcement of Chavez's illness and his limited public appearances since returning from Cuba have been received positively by investors, who have bid up prices for Venezuela's dollar-denominated bonds.
"The Venezuela bond market is now up 11 percent over the last three weeks," Dallen said.
A message on Chavez's Twitter account said Saturday that he was up at 5 a.m., and then underwent medical exams before reading and talking with Jaua by phone.
In what has become a near-daily mantra, Chavez said in another Twitter message: "We will live and we will win."
The president said that he is keeping a close eye on state television, which broadcast footage on Saturday of National Assembly leader Fernando Soto Rojas attending a food fair where vendors sold "hallacas," a traditional Venezuelan dish resembling a Mexican tamale.
"Hey, Comrade Soto Rojas, send me one of those hallacas," Chavez said on his Twitter account.
Chavez also lamented the killing of Argentine folk singer Facundo Cabral in Guatemala. "What pain!" Chavez wrote. "We cry with Argentina and all of our great fatherland."
In the latest image of the president on state television, he greeted his mother, father, brothers and other relatives at the presidential palace on Thursday and introduced them to a doctor in a white coat, saying: "These are, well, the Cuban battalion, the Cuban and Venezuelan battalion."
Chavez has credited his mentor and friend Fidel Castro with helping direct his medical care in Cuba last month. Chavez made his surprise return to Caracas on July 4, four days after he announced in a prerecorded video that he was fighting cancer.
The latest video clips were edited to a soundtrack of Venezuelan folk music. The images cut to footage on Friday in which Chavez stood together with his relatives in a courtyard looking at an old softball trophy and reminiscing.
Associated Press writer Christopher Toothaker contributed to this report.