Venezuelan foreign minister reads letter from ailing Hugo Chavez at meeting in Africa

Venezuela's foreign minister read a lengthy letter from ailing President Hugo Chavez on Friday to a gathering of African and South American leaders in Equatorial Guinea.

In the letter, read on television by Foreign Minister Elias Jaua, Chavez said he was sorry not to be able to attend the meeting.

Chavez hasn't spoken publicly since before he underwent his latest cancer surgery on Dec. 11, and even written statements have been rare. Government officials have said Chavez is breathing through a tracheal tube, but they have also shown a few letters and other documents with his signature.

In the letter, which ran for about 1,500 words, Chavez denounced Western intervention in Africa and reiterated his criticisms of NATO's military involvement in Libya in 2011, when his ally Moammar Gadhafi was ousted and killed.

Chavez also called for more "South-South cooperation" and said of Africa and South America, "We are the same people."

The letter ended with the words: "We will live and be triumphant!"

Last month, Vice President Nicolas Maduro read a similarly lengthy letter from Chavez to leaders at a summit in Chile.

The Venezuelan government provided an update on Chavez's condition Thursday night, saying that he remained at a military hospital in Caracas and that "the medical treatment for the fundamental illness continues without presenting significant adverse effects."

The government has not given details about the treatment Chavez is undergoing, and hasn't identified the type or exact location of the tumors that have been removed from his pelvic region.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas read the statement on television, saying that a "respiratory insufficiency" that arose in the weeks after the surgery "persists and its tendency has not been favorable, thus it continues to be treated."