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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • 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: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
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