Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez 'very delicate' as he is hit by severe respiratory infection

 

President Hugo Chavez is breathing with greater difficulty as a new and severe respiratory infection has taken hold, Venezuela's government said, describing the cancer-stricken president's condition as “very delicate.”

A brief statement read on national television by Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas late yesterday carried the sobering news about the charismatic 58-year-old socialist leader's deteriorating health.

Villegas said Chavez is suffering from "a new, severe infection." The state news agency identified it as respiratory.

Chavez, 58, has been undergoing "chemotherapy of strong impact," Villegas added without providing further details.

Chavez has neither been seen nor heard from, except for "proof-of-life" photos released in mid-February, since submitting to a fourth round of surgery in Cuba on 11 December for an unspecified cancer in the pelvic area. It was first diagnosed in June 2011.

The government says he returned home on 18 February and has been confined to Caracas' military hospital since.

Villegas said Chavez was "standing by Christ and life conscious of the difficulties he faces."

He also took the opportunity to lash out at "the corrupt Venezuelan right" for what he called a psychological war seeking "scenarios of violence as a pretext for foreign intervention."

He called on Chavez's supporters, who include thousands of well-armed militiamen, to be "on a war footing."

Upon Chavez's death, the opposition would contest the government's candidate in a snap election that it argues should have been called after Chavez was unable to be sworn in on 10 January as the constitution stipulates.

Indeed, the campaigning has already begun, although undeclared, with Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who Chavez has said should succeed him, frequently commandeering all broadcast channels Chavez-style to tout the "revolution" and vilify the opposition.

Chavez has run Venezuela for more than 14 years as a virtual one-man show, gradually placing all state institutions under his personal control. But the former army paratroop officer who rose to fame with a failed 1992 coup, never groomed a successor with his force of personality.

Chavez was last re-elected on 7 October, and his challenger, youthful Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles, is expected to again be the opposition's candidate.

On state TV last night, opinion show host Mario Silva slung the latest volley of mud at Capriles, claiming his family had purchased a multi-million-dollar New York City apartment with stolen money.

Opposition lawmaker Julio Borges condemned Villegas' political use of last night's health bulletin. "I lament such a poverty of humanity," he tweeted.

Pro-Chavez militant Enrique Barroso sounded grave when reached by telephone.

"This is not easy for him nor for us," he said. "We call on the people to pray and hold vigil for the health of the president."

One of Chavez's three daughters, Maria Gabriela, expressed thanks to well-wishers via her Twitter account. "We will prevail!" she wrote, echoing a favorite phrase of her father. "With God always."

There has been speculation that Chavez's cancer has spread to his lungs and can't be halted.

An oncologist not involved in Chavez's treatment, which has been conducted in tightly enforced secrecy, told The Associated Press that he viewed Villegas' statement as recognition that Chavez's condition is "truly precarious."

He called into question the veracity of Villegas' statement that Chavez had been undergoing chemotherapy, saying patients in such a delicate state are not put on chemotherapy.

Maduro said last week, in the first such announcement, that the president had begun receiving chemotherapy around the end of January.

Doctors have said that such therapy was not necessarily to try to beat Chavez's cancer into remission but could have been palliative, to extend Chavez's life and ease his suffering.

While in Cuba, Chavez suffered severe respiratory infection in late December that nearly killed him, Maduro said last week. A tracheal tube was inserted then and government officials have said his breathing remained labored.

They have sent mixed signals throughout Chavez's post-operative days, and in an early February opinion survey nearly three in five Venezuelans said they believed the president whose largesse has endeared him to the poor would recover.

In Cuba, Chavez has undergone a series of radiation treatments and chemotherapy after his operations.

The entire treatment regimen was kept far from public scrutiny.

AP

News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
News
Jennifer Lawrence at the Vanity Fair Academy Awards party in February 2014
people12 undisclosed female victims are seeking $100m in damages
Arts and Entertainment
Adam Levine plays a butcher who obsessively stalks a woman in Maroon 5's 'Animals' music video
music'Animals' video 'promotes sexual violence against women'
News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
voicesI like surprises - that's why I'm bringing them back to politics, writes Nigel Farage
News
Bear and hare woodland scene from John Lewis Christmas advert
newsRetailer breaks with tradition, selling real festive fir trees online for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Anthony Horowitz will write the next 007 novel
booksAnthony Horowitz to write new instalment in spy series for 2015
News
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
people
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
Kicking on: Nathaniel Clyne is relishing the challenge of the Premier League after moving from Crystal Palace
footballSurprises include a first ever call-up for one Southampton star
News
news
Voices
4 May 2013: The sun rises over Tower Bridge in London. Temperatures across the UK could be higher than several European holiday destinations by Monday, including parts of Italy and France (Andy Hepburn/PA)
voices
News
The moon observed in visible light, topography and the GRAIL gravity gradients
science

...and it wasn't caused by an asteroid crash, as first thought

News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
Extras
indybest
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

HR Advisor - East Anglia - Field-based

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: To be considered for this position you will n...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: We have opportunities for Cov...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to tea...

Digital Fundraising Analyst/Web Analyst - West Sussex - Permanent - £30k DOE

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?