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Originally published Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 8:23 AM

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Venezuela VP optimistic Chavez will soon return

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Sunday he's optimistic that Hugo Chavez will soon return to Venezuela following cancer-related surgery in Cuba.

The Associated Press

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CARACAS, Venezuela —

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Sunday he's optimistic that Hugo Chavez will soon return to Venezuela following cancer-related surgery in Cuba.

Maduro said that he and other government officials "are always optimistic that we are going to have the president here with us sooner rather than later," but he did not provide any more details about the possibility of Chavez's return during a televised interview.

Chavez is "moving forward" with his recovery and he's eager "to see the fatherland to which he has dedicated his life," Maduro said.

Chavez has not spoken publicly or been seen since the Dec. 11 surgery in Cuba for an unspecified type of pelvic cancer.

The socialist leader's long absence has spurred much speculation regarding his health. Many opposition politicians argue Chavez, who was re-elected to a fresh 6-year term in October, is not fit to continue governing Venezuela. They note that Chavez missed a Jan. 10 swearing-in ceremony, prompting the government to organize a street rally.

The president's allies reject those allegations.

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