Decree ‘signed’ by sick Chavez is published

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Venezuela’s government has published a decree signed by president Hugo Chavez, while his vice-president said yesterday that the ailing leader also sent a message of gratitude to the military for its loyalty.

It was the first time the president’s signature has appeared in the Official Gazette since his latest cancer surgery in Cuba more than five weeks ago. The decree, issued on Tuesday and published in the government newspaper on Wednesday, names former vice-president Elias Jaua as foreign minister. The signature is printed along with the presidential stamp.

Mr Chavez has not made any public comments since his operation last month, his fourth in 18 months. He has been fighting an unspecified type of pelvic cancer, and his silence has fed speculation about his health.

Before the decree was published, Venezuela’s opposition had questioned the legality of the new foreign minister’s appointment, citing a lack of publicly released documents with Mr Chavez’s signature.