Silence from Hugo Chavez fuels fears over health

 

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has been out of sight for a week, speaking only through Twitter messages and written statements while undergoing cancer treatment in Cuba.

The lack of any appearances on television has Venezuelans wondering about what his unusual silence might say about his struggle with cancer, and whether Mr Chavez may be coping with a particularly tough phase of radiation therapy.

More than 30 messages have appeared on Mr Chavez's Twitter account since he left for Cuba on April 14.

He has cheered on supporters with slogans such as “Let's continue building socialism!”

In others, he has praised his military commanders, announced funding for local governments and vowed to survive and win re-election in October.

But he has seldom mentioned his cancer treatment.

National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello reiterated that Mr Chavez is expected to return to Venezuela soon.

“God willing, next week he'll be here again with us once he has finished the treatment,” Mr Cabello said in a televised speech. He insisted that even when Mr Chavez is away in Cuba, “he leads just the same as if he were here in Venezuela”.

“The commander's presence here isn't necessary, because just the same he's the commander of the revolution,” Mr Cabello said.

But even some of Mr Chavez's supporters have been saying recently that they wonder what is going on with his health.

“It makes me sad, but my Comandante must not be as well as they say,” said Guillermo Suarez, a street vendor selling sunglasses.

“It's already been many days that we haven't seen him, heard him.”

Mr Chavez, who has been president since 1999, has long been a constant presence on Venezuelan television, often addressing the nation for several hours most days in addition to his marathon Sunday programme Hello, President.

But recently there have been no episodes of Hello, President, and Mr Chavez said he expected his final rounds of radiation therapy, which began last month, to be rough.

Mr Chavez has not discussed details of the radiation treatments, saying they have diminished his strength but have been going well.

Last weekend, he decided not to attend the Summit of the Americas in Colombia, the sort of high-profile international event where he would previously have taken centre stage.

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro announced the decision, saying Mr Chavez was skipping the summit on the advice of his doctors.

Mr Chavez began radiation treatment in Cuba in late March after undergoing an operation in February that removed a second tumour from his pelvic region. The first was taken out last June.

He has kept secret some details of his illness, including the type of cancer and the precise location of the tumours.

Mr Chavez also was away in Havana regularly last year while undergoing chemotherapy after the initial surgery.

During previous trips to Cuba, Mr Chavez periodically appeared on television, either in phone calls or appearances with his aides or daughters, and gave the appearance of continuing to work and keeping abreast of affairs at home.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own