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Venezuela's VP says he's optimistic Hugo Chavez will soon return to homeland following surgery

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Jan. 18, 2013: In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro, center, speaks to students during the inauguration of a school in Barinas, Venezuela. (AP/Miraflores Press Office)

Venezuela's vice president says he's optimistic that Hugo Chavez will soon return to Venezuela following cancer-related surgery in Cuba.

Nicolas Maduro says the ailing president is still recovering following the operation for an unspecified type of pelvic cancer.

Chavez has not spoken publicly or been seen since the Dec. 11 surgery in Cuba.

The socialist leader's long absence has spurred much speculation regarding his health.

Many opposition politicians argue Chavez is not fit to continue governing Venezuela. The president's allies reject those allegations.

Maduro spoke during a televised interview on Sunday.