Chavez meets Belarus leader in rare public event

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who recently underwent cancer radiation therapy, held a rare public event Saturday to welcome Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko with TV cameras rolling.

Chavez, 57, made an appearance of about 15 minutes to bid farewell to Semashko at Miraflores Palace as the Belarusian official wrapped up his visit ahead of a planned trip to Caracas this month by President Alexander Lukashenko.

"We have tightened up the agenda for Lukashenko's visit," Chavez said. "We are just thrilled."

He said Lukashenko will travel to the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, due to be held in Rio de Janeiro on June 20-22, and that he wants to visit Venezuela on June 26.

Chavez did not take questions from reporters, saying he did not have time as he had to catch a football match.

The government has disclosed few details about Chavez's health, leading to intense speculation over the political future of Latin America's most prominent leftist leader, who is seeking reelection for a third consecutive six-year term.

But Chavez defied speculation about his health with a four-hour long televised appearance on Tuesday, his longest since being diagnosed with recurring cancer in March.

The president sought to reassure supporters by chairing a televised cabinet meeting just weeks after returning from Communist Cuba, his closest regional ally where he has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.

As he has shuttled back and forth to Havana in recent months, Chavez has mainly communicated via Twitter and televised phone calls, leading to charges from the opposition that he is governing the country by remote control.

The flamboyant Venezuelan leader has yet to disclose what kind of cancer he suffers from, but has vowed to rout opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in the October 7 election.

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