The Venezuelan government is perhaps hoping that the first pictures of President Hugo Chavez since his last operation for cancer in Cuba will boost its popularity.
People in Venezuela including Chavez supporters have been hit by a recent hike in prices following a currency devaluation.
The new images include a photo of the president smiling alongside his two daughters, taken in hospital in Havana. Other pictures show him reading a copy of the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma dated February 14, 2013.
The lack of news over the president’s condition has led to much speculation over the state of his health. The Spanish newspaper El Pais apologised after briefly putting a photo on its website that turned out to be fake.
“Photos should have been released immediately after the Spanish newspaper released fake pictures, to let the public see the real President Chavez,” said Fernando Da Silva, a Portuguese immigrant living in Caracas.
Another resident, Nerys Herrera, had her doubts over the photos:
“After two months’ delay, we got a photo. Everyone is familiar with Chavez; if we see each other face to face I know what you look like,” she told her interviewer. “But after seeing these photos, I don’t think it’s him, it looks like wax image, I think.”
The veteran socialist leader – who has been in power since 1999 – still has a strong personal following with supporters praying for his recovery, swearing oaths of loyalty, and chanting his name in the streets.