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Venezuela's Chavez in 'best moment'

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is doing well since undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba 45 days ago.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Picture: AFP

CARACAS - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in his "best moment" since undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba 45 days ago, the vice president said on Saturday, adding Chavez has made important economic decisions to strengthen exports.

"He's got a smile that's filled with light, his thoughts are illuminated," said Nicolas Maduro in televised comments just after midnight after returning from a visit with Chavez.

The normally garrulous president has not been heard from since a complex operation on 11 December. Official statements in recent weeks have sounded upbeat about his condition following rumours that he is gravely ill.

The communication minister on Saturday is scheduled to provide more details about Chavez's condition and treatment.

Maduro's comments about economic policy come amid widespread speculation that Venezuela is preparing a devaluation of the bolivar currency that would improve state finances by providing more bolivars per dollar of oil exports.

Devaluing would make exports more competitive by lowering local production costs, and spur domestic industries by making imports less competitive with respect to local goods.

"We're going to develop our economy's capacity to export," Maduro said.

Business leaders have for weeks said a devaluation is necessary to ease periodic product shortages that have resulted from a scarcity of dollars.

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