Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is conscious but in a "delicate and complex situation" after a cancer operation in Cuba, his deputy says.
Vice-President Nicolas Maduro said there had been a slight improvement in the president's condition between two meetings in the past two days, reports the BBC.
Chavez, who has been in power since 1999, was elected in October for a fourth term in office.
The 58-year-old president is due to be sworn in for a new term on January 10.
While it is unclear if the president will be able to attend ceremony, Maduro angrily denounced speculation the president's health was failing.
Earlier, Venezuelan cabinet ministers prayed for Chavez's recovery during a Mass at the presidential palace in Caracas.
Official New Year celebrations were called off after Maduro announced the president had suffered new
Speaking in Havana, Maduro said he had visited Chavez in hospital twice since arriving on Saturday.
"We have faith in God and in the doctors that Hugo Chavez will continue to make progress and sooner or later will emerge from this complex and delicate post-operative state he is in," he told the Latin American satellite network Telesur.
But he gave very little further concrete information about the condition of the president, who underwent his operation on December 11.
He said Chavez gripped his hand "with gigantic force" as they spoke, discussing political matters, the economy in Venezuela and the swearing-in of new governors following regional elections.
He denounced what he called right-wing media rumours about Chavez's health as the work of "mentally ill" people, saying they were inventing and manipulating information without respect for Chavez or his family.
Earlier this year, the president said he had been cleared of a cancer diagnosed in 2011 and was fit to serve out his six-year term.
But on December 11, he went through his fourth cancer operation in Cuba.
There are also many questions about what will happen on January 10 when Chavez is due to be re-inaugurated, says the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Havana, adding that it is now three weeks since Chavez has been seen or heard from.
National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello recently said that the swearing-in ceremony would be delayed in the case of Chavez's absence.
But the opposition says such move would be unconstitutional.
The Venezuelan constitutions states that a new election should be called in 30 days should the president not be fit enough to attend his inauguration, the opposition argues.