CARACAS, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Venezuela's ailing President Hugo Chavez is breathing through a tracheal tube and has difficulty talking, top aides said Friday after releasing images of the recovering head of state for the first time since he was operated on two months ago.
"The respiratory infection that emerged during the post-operative stage was controlled, but a certain degree of (breathing) insufficiency persists," Communication and Information Minister Ernesto Villegas read a written statement broadcast on national radio and television stations.
"Given the situation, which is being duly treated, Commandant Chavez currently breathes through a tracheal tube, which makes talking temporarily difficult," he added.
After displaying the images of Chavez flanked by two of his daughters, Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza, who is also Chavez's son-in-law, was interviewed by national news network Telesur.
Chavez "has lost his characteristic voice," said Arreaza, adding it was only a temporary setback.
For now, "one has to pay attention" to be able to make out what Chavez is saying, and often the president "must express his ideas in writing."
"We really hope to listen to him again, Chavez has a clear vision of where the revolution is going," said Arreaza, who has been keeping Venezuelans abreast of Chavez's battle with cancer via media statements or his personal Twitter account.
He also criticized the political opposition for spreading unfounded rumors about Chavez's health.
"This is a slow recovery (with) some very difficult processes, but the (medical) team is prepared for that," said Arreaza. "The people must know that he is in the best hands."
Chavez had a fourth operation in mid-December last year in Havana, Cuba, where he has received medical attention since he was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011.