The condition of Venezuela’s ailing president is beginning to improve. Hugo Chavez suffered unexpected bleeding caused by a six-hour cancer operation in Cuba, his fourth procedure in 18 months to rid his pelvic region of the disease. Thousands of people gathered to pray across Venezuela and there were widespread celebrations as news of his recovery was delivered by the country’s vice president, Nicolas Maduro. “In the last few hours his recovery has evolved from stable to favourable,” he told soldiers who gathered for a mass in the capital, Caracas. His condition is also being closely watched and followed in Cuba, where President Raul Castro expressed his solidarity with his close ally. The health of the 58-year old has deteriorated dramatically since he won re-election two months ago, and he still appears to be fighting for his life. It has cast doubt on the future of his so-called “21st century socialism” project, which has won Chavez huge support across Latin America, especially among the poor; but it has equally infuriated his critics who denouce his as a fledgling dictator.